In an episode of the KRO-NCRV investigative journalism programme “De Monitor” which aired on Sunday night, international earthquake experts spoke out against the endless bureaucracy earthquake damage victims face in Groningen.
Translation by Traci White
Ihsan Engin Bal, an instructor at the Hanze University of Applied Sciences and an earthquake research, criticized the government’s handling of the damage claims filed by people living in province whose property has been damaged by prolonged exposure to induced earthquakes. “Stop this costly mission impossible”, Bal says. “End the costly damage agencies and just compensate the people for the fact that they are living in a natural gas field and the problems they are facing as a result.”
Bal went on to described his surprise at the way the national government has been dealing with the damage claims. “Technically speaking, the mission is to evaluate each damage claim and see if it can linked to the small magnitude earthquakes in Groningen.” Bal says that it would make sense to provide unconditional compensation to the residents instead.
Linking damage to earthquakes
The Groninger Internet Courant reports that seven other international experts appeared in the programme, including Stanford professor Gregory Deierlein, who works at the Earthquake Engineering Center at the university. “It is difficult to prove that damage was caused by an earthquake even when it comes to larger quakes. In Groningen, there are so many houses and so many small earthquakes that it would be virtually impossible to definitively make that connection.”
Engineering professor Sergio Lagomarsino from the University of Genoa remarked that Dutch houses were never built to be earthquake resistant. “That is why they end up damaged, even though the quakes themselves are small.”
Government to continue damage inspections
In response to the expert commentary, the ministry of economic affairs told “De Monitor” that they are also disappointed by the slow pace of the damage assessments, but minister Eric Wiebes still plans to continue carrying out expert inspections. Wiebes says that such evaluations should eventually make it possible to draw a definitive link between the quakes and the damage.
The ministry is also reportedly working to respond to the depreciated value of the homes in the region and that the damage agencies (schadeloketten) should be able to catch up on the backlog of claims over the course of 2019. “But there is no magic wand that we can wave to suddenly change things overnight”, according to a government spokesperson.