Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Ebbs in the Netherlands; Evacuees Jam the Roads Home

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Flood Ebbs in the Netherlands; Evacuees Jam the Roads Home

Article excerpt

Dutch roads were choked with cars and trucks Saturday as 55,000 flood evacuees made their way home. But 140,000 people remained in temporary shelters in the Netherlands, as authorities expressed concern that traffic would damage the dikes.

The Rhine meanwhile resembled a traffic jam, as barges delayed for a week by flooding got back to ferrying their goods on Germany's and the Netherlands's biggest waterway.

The area around the eastern Dutch city of Nijmegen was declared safe Saturday, and residents were allowed to return. But downstream areas of the Maas and Waal rivers still faced the threat of weakened dikes collapsing.

The Waal is a branch of the lower Rhine. The Maas, which rises in France where it is called the Meuse, is linked to both the Waal and the Rhine by a network of canals.

Officials said water levels on the Maas and Waal were falling at a rate of two feet a day.

"Dike watching will go on day and night until we are absolutely convinced that no calamity of any kind can happen," said Jacob de Jongh, dike master in Tiel between the Waal and Lower Rhine rivers.

Dutch police said roads leading to the safe areas were choked with long columns of vehicles, even though the authorities were trying to achieve a phased return to prevent congestion.

Almost a quarter of a million Dutch people were forced to abandon their homes this week as old dikes threatened to collapse.

(NOTE: THE FOLLOWING TWO PARAGRAPHS APPEARED IN THE EARLY FIVE STAR EDITION ONLY)

The week-long crisis sparked intense criticism of the government and environmentalists for delaying work to strengthen this low-lying country's vital flood defenses. …

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