Rivers Drop, but Dutch Dikes Menaced

Associated Press

Flooded rivers subsided Thursday, but a new enemy gnawed at the weakened, ancient structures that keep much of this country dry: swift currents that threatened to gouge the dikes.

The latest problem is not high water but the speed with which river levels are dropping in the southeastern Netherlands.

"It's a real danger," regional Dikemaster Jan Boer said. "When the waters decline, when the pressure disappears, there's a chance dikes will begin to float and shift. The whole dike can be torn open."

Evacuated areas in Gelderland and Limburg provinces remained off limits to the public Thursday.

Mayor Ed d'Hondt of Nijmegen, the largest city in the region, said the area's 250,000 residents who fled would not be able to return to their homes until at least Saturday.

At least 29 people have died as a result of last week's storms and flooding across northwestern Europe, and the Dutch are bearing the brunt of the storm.

But flower lovers can heave a sigh of relief, as the rains have not menaced the nation's tulips.

The tulip, symbol of the Netherlands to the outside world, is cultivated in sandy or clay-like soils concentrated about 100 miles northwest of the flood zone.

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