Dutch Affairs / English / Living in NL / Thoughts

When the dikes break

When the dikes break or Als de dijken breken is the new Dutch – Belgian six episodes drama series which started two weeks ago in Dutch NPO 1 tv-channel on 5 November. Belgians will catch up the premiere there on 28 November. This series is about a catastrophe occurs in both low lands, when the dikes break.


The Netherlands have this endless struggle against water to keep the land dry, the water peril has always been present. If you don’t have time to read that post, this is how the country map actually looks like without its one single dike. Two third of the area, the cities in the blue colour (colour of sea water) are actually located under the sea level, under water. Without dikes, this part of the Netherlands would be flooded with sea and river water.

This map is taken from Dutch Wikipedia.

This is Dutch map with its 44 giant dikes. The dikes keep the land dry. There is a saying: â€˜God created the world, but the Dutch created Holland’. To those who are interested in more information about dikes, visit typology of Dutch dikes.

dijk ring, dike ring

Map is courtesy of publicwiki.deltares

The story of Als de dijken breken

It has been raining for days somewhere in November. Weather experts see the big storm coming, the once in the 10.000 years storm. Belgian weathers expert have already advised the Belgian prime minister to evacuate Oostende (located under the city of Bruges, Brugge). Dutch prime minister calls him and decides to hold a crisis meeting because this looks serious.  However two of Dutch prime minister advisors convince him to wait with the evacuation because this would damage the economy and would cost the political party votes.

This turns out to be a wrong decision because the dike number 14 (the blue one), in Zuid – Holland Province (on the first map this is located in ‘s Gravenhage, another name of Den Haag, The Hague) breaks. Within 1,5 hour a huge part of the country is under water.

Besides both the prime ministers and his staff, there are another three story lines, a family from Oostende with the husband being a prisoner in a prison in Rotterdam, prisoners in the same prison in Rotterdam who want to get out of the building, a couple with two teen daughters in a relationship crisis and an old orchestra conductor who saved a child.

Yesterday the second episode was aired. So this is what I can share about the story so far. The land is flooded, there are 20.000 dead victims. I could make a guess how the story develops further; search and rescue for the victims, no electricity, no communication medium, lacks of food and drinks, prison break, riots.

My review

Als de dijken breken is eerily realistic my daughter couldn’t sleep after she saw the first episode. The acting is good. The cast consists of well-known Belgian and Dutch actors who perform very well in it. The story might happen in the real life. The scenes of storm in sea show how the strong storm looks like. The colour tones are grey and gloomy. And this is close to reality too.

Some scenes open with this following information: name of the cities and places in Belgium and The Netherlands, accompanied with info of the location and the ground height, most of them are situated under the sea level. For example: Rotterdam, November, 3 meter under sea level. It is grim because we know what would happen there, when the dikes break.

There is also a touch of today’s life; the scene when Dutch prime minister’s wife picks up her old  father from the elderly home. One staff member takes a picture of them and sets this on social media which causes immediate panic under the people. While at that time there is no official evacuation issued yet by the government but seeing that picture people take their car and leave their house. They end up in a long traffic jam on the highway. This makes them vulnerable for the water that is coming from the sea.

The message

Viewers reacted positively to this new series on social media. It sets them to think when the dikes break, what to do? I can decide whether to evacuate or stay at home. This Dutch government awareness campaign Would I be flooded explains that water would come as high as 3 meter in my house. This data is obtained from the calculation based on various models. I don’t know how high or how bad it would really be when the dikes do break in this tiny country. When it happens, I hope I have enough food and drinks to survive before help comes.

13 thoughts on “When the dikes break

  1. I could imagine how the series caught the Dutch viewers, as the disaster in the storyline is a real “risk” in the country!

    Though I observe here that the other side of this is “pride”. While being under sea-level, of course, poses some risk, on the other hand it is amazing how this can be done and managed! The good thing is that they still keep their eyes on this matter and keep continuously working to improve the dijk 😄.

    • Talking about pride, kemaren pas di Amsterdam sempet ngobrol kenapa sih mereka pake bangun metro segala, toh tram juga udah oke jaringannya ditambah bus, plus dengan kondisi tanah yang kaya gitu, jawabannya temenku – karena engineers suka show off… ahahaha bener juga

      • Engineers suka show off, pejabat yang mendanai dari budget lokal, dan si pejabat juga yang petantang-petenteng kalo proyeknya berhasil = more vote = political gain :-).

      • Well, I don’t think they will do nothing to these dikes in the coming 50 years. At least I hope not. I would think they will work on how to make them even stronger, by taking into the account more accurate information surrounding these dikes in the coming 50 years. In my opinion that is better than making one now that is claimed to be good for the next 100 years by extrapolating what we now “believe” might happen in the coming 100 years. The situation (sea-level, climate, etc) might change, so the uncertainty is higher, and so the dikes need to be adjusted accordingly.

    • Tiap Senin pertama tiap bulan ada sirene, terus ada website itu tentang kampanye kalo tanggulnya jebol musti gimana. Selama ini aku lihat sih ok aja Tje, ngga tahu kalo kejadian bener akan gimana ya.

Tell me what you think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s