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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 January 2006, 04:56 GMT
US learns from Dutch flood dykes
By Geraldine Coughlan
BBC News, The Hague

Flooded street in New Orleans
New Orleans was devastated by the floods
A US delegation is in the Netherlands to study the flood control systems protecting a country that lies further below sea level than New Orleans.

The 50-member delegation includes the Governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Blanco, US senators and business leaders.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the US is looking to learn from the experience of the Netherlands.

Water management experts will be showing the US visitors its massive system of dams and sea walls.

In the flood of 1953, 2,000 people died in the Netherlands.

Complex measures

The Delta Project, with twin gates the size of the Eiffel Tower, can seal the mouth of Rotterdam Harbour in case of a sea surge.

But the government admits, that no matter what you do to prepare, something can always go wrong.

"You can never say a 100%," says Annelie Kohl, a spokesperson for the water ministry.

"That doesn't exist anywhere in the world - that would be unwise to say," she says.

"But obviously it's a very important part for our defence here in the Netherlands.

"As you know, most of our country is below sea level, so it's of the utmost importance for us to have safe dykes and other measures to protect us."

The US delegates will be looking at how the Dutch now designate land for rivers to flood when the water level rises, instead of building dykes and levees.

But to be sure, they have just completed an entire network of flood defences here to protect against any storm - except one so severe it can happen only once in 10,000 years.

Map showing areas of Netherlands below sea level and locations of key barriers
First storm-surge barrier built in 1958
Sea level on Dutch coast rose 20cm in the past century
Another 60cm rise expected in next century
Source: Dutch Transport/Water Ministry

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