Dutch return favor for New Orleans
The storm surge rushed across more than a quarter-million acres, destroying levees and dikes before it crushed tens of thousands of homes and claimed nearly 2,000 souls.The Dutch are also investing in the New Orleans area in an effort to aid the recovery. New Orleans biggest problem right now is its human capital. Too many bad guys have returned and too many good people have stayed away. This along with debilitating corruption have made recovery in the city difficult to say the least.
Unlike Hurricane Katrina, this storm had no name when it surged onshore from the North Sea and caught the Dutch people off guard on Jan. 31, 1953.
Dutch officials turned to their counterparts in New Orleans for aid and technological know-how to build new water pumps, which have since protected the country from devastating floods.
More than a half-century later, the Dutch people are returning the favor to help the Gulf Coast recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which hit in 2005.
"We sent our pumps, our ships, helicopters and our engineers to help dewater the city and provide humanitarian relief to you," said Christiaan Kroner, the Netherlands ambassador to the United States. "And in the coming years, we will do all that is possible to promote Dutch involvement for as long as they want us."
The assistance is part of Memorandum of Agreement the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers signed with its Dutch counterpart, Rijkswaterstaat, in 2004 -- one year before the hurricanes struck.
A delegation of state and federal officials from the U.S. has traveled to the Netherlands to look at its system of levees and dikes, and there are two plans under consideration to rebuild the levees in Louisiana to make them larger and stronger.
The construction is "still in the initial stages" and "my guess is it will also take several years as far as the execution of the plan," Mr. Kroner said.
The Netherlands is about half the size of Louisiana and is bordered by the North Sea. Two-thirds of the country is below sea level.
New Orleans also lies two-thirds below sea level, and Dutch officials say they are learning lessons from how New Orleans handled Katrina, including evacuation procedures and emergency response.