14 Feb 2014

Floods: British government turned down Dutch help

Channel 4 News can reveal that Dutch emergency flood relief has been turned down because British authorities said it was not needed.

Several Dutch authorities involved with the talks confirmed that concrete offers of material aid were declined, writes Channel 4 News Producer Nanette Van der Laan.

“We told the British government that we would help in any way we could,” said Ursula Meering, spokeswoman of the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment.

“We told the British government that we had pumps, emergency dykes and sand bag-filling machines available, but they said there was no need for any of this help at present. They said they only needed expertise, so we have sent a team of four dyke experts to the UK.”

We told the British government that we had pumps, emergency dykes and sand bag-filling machines available, but they said there was no need. Dutch government statement

The Water Authority of Noorderzijlvest, an agency that looks after three northern provinces of the Netherlands, said it had offered to supply box barriers which act as emergency dykes. The light-weight boxes are filled with water and act as an effective temporary flood defence system, which can be used to heighten the crest of a barrier or to make a dam on different types of terrain. This increased crest height prevents further flooding of any area behind the barrier.

Lydia Balkema, of the Water Authority of Noorderzijlvest, told Channel 4 News: “Our offer of box barriers aid stands, so if the need arises then we can supply them very quickly.”

The Water Authority of Hunze and Aa has offered sand bag-filling machines, which can fill 1,000 bags in an hour.

Offer declined

Judith de Jong, spokeswoman for the Association of Regional Water Authorities said: “I don’t know why our offer of pumps, sand bag-filling machines and box barriers were declined.”

The offer of material aid and expertise was made last Sunday, when a Dutch delegation of water security experts visited Downing Street. The Dutch Minister for Infrastructure and the Environment, Melanie Shultz van Haegen, said: “It is important to share our knowledge and experience and to offer Dutch expertise in order to help tackle the flooding in England.”

UK floods: get the latest here 

After Sunday’s visit, the Dutch were informed that only expertise was needed. On Thursday night, four dyke experts arrived in Bristol. They will be conducting “visual dyke inspections” with their colleagues from the Environment Agency. It is expected that they will stay for a week.

A Defra spokesperson told Channel 4 News: “We are grateful for the support from the Dutch government – so far we have borrowed eight very high volume pumps and have several Dutch engineers assisting us in Somerset. We will continue to discuss our needs with the Netherlands and other EU partners.”

The Environment Agency and Defra have been in close contact with the Dutch and other experts on the flooding, and the UK government is apparently “grateful” for the help offered.

And while at this point the government believes the equipment offered is not needed, this does not mean that it may not be called upon in the future, Channel 4 Newsunderstands.