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A boat near a road inundated with flood water around the village of Tolbert, northern Netherlands AP Photo/Peter Dejong

Hundreds evacuated amid fears dike could rupture in Netherlands

Days of torrential rain have led to flood warnings in the low-lying country, a quarter of which is below sea level.

POLICE IN THE Netherlands have begun evacuating 800 people from four villages in low-lying areas amid fears that one of the country’s famous flood dikes could rupture after days of drenching rains.

Authorities said that a section of the dike along a major canal could give way and submerge hundreds of hectares of land under up to five feet of water.

“The chance is small” the dike will break, said Yvonne van Mastrigt, chairman of the regional policy team that ordered the evacuation. “But in the interests of security of people and livestock I must take this decision.”

The evacuations 200 kilometres north of Amsterdam come after a combination of torrential rain and powerful northwesterly winds have soaked the country and prevented water being pumped out to sea.

A quarter of the Netherlands is below sea level and 55 percent of the country is considered susceptible to flooding, but the country has learned to live with the ever-present threat of high water, and devastating floods are rare.

Residents forced to leave their homes were advised to stay with friends or families but a makeshift evacuation centre also was opened in a nearby sports hall.

Water levels in rivers and canals across the Netherlands has been rising for days and authorities are on high alert for possible flooding and breaches in the thousands of kilometres of dikes that protect the country from inundation.

In the northern city of Groningen, staff at the Groninger Museum moved two exhibitions late Thursday from ground floor halls because of the rising level of a moat that surrounds the building. The museum was closed Friday.

Elsewhere in the north, which has been hardest hit by the recent storms, authorities deliberately flooded nature reserves to lower levels in drainage canals.

Some 85 farmers were advised Thursday to evacuate an area threatened by another dike breach but most refused and the dike held firm.

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Associated Foreign Press
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