Earthquakes impact health

The Groningen citizens living in the earthquake zone have experienced a further decline in their health over the past year. People with multiple cracks in their walls are particularly afflicted.
By Peter Keizer / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

This has emerged from research done by the RUG, GGD, and the municipality of Groningen. The residents affected are feeling much more unsafe and are suffering from stress-related health issues, the researchers conclude.

Residents with multiple cracks in their walls are more worried about the future, the safety of their houses and future earthquakes. The people interviewed are uncertain about whether there will be more and increasingly violent earthquakes and what financial consequences they could have. Many residents also feel more unsafe because the government and the NAM are failing to recognise the extent of their problems and concerns about their safety. However, they are feeling slightly safer now that there are fewer earthquakes.

‘The societal costs that the community is paying for the gas extraction are turning out to be much higher than we thought. It’s not just about the damage to the houses and the property value, but also about the damage done to the people’, says Katherine Stroebe, one of the leaders of the research.

Less gas extraction

Stroebe and Tom Postmes have been measuring the health, safety, and the future of 23 Dutch municipalities. The research, the third measurement of which included approximately 3,000 respondents, has been commissioned by the National Coordinator of Groningen, Hans Alders. The first presentation in July 2016 already proved that the earthquakes cause health problems, such as sleeplessness, trouble concentrating, and joint pain.

Almost all the interviewees (81 per cent) think they would feel safer if the gas extraction were decreased or stopped altogether, and if an independent investigation were to take place (80 per cent). Moreover, the residents say it would be great if the government would frankly recognise the extent of the risks in Groningen.

Faith

The researchers think that faith needs to be restored. They conclude that honest and trustworthy communication about the inherent risks of gas extraction, transparency of decision-making and the independence of contractors are important.

‘It’s a good thing that they’re working on improvements and claim settlements, inspections and reinforcements. But the amount of people with multiple cracks in their walls is increasing and they’re in a bind. The solution is to prioritise the residents’ well-being’, says Postmes.

The research results were presented on the same day that a protest took place in Groningen. On Tuesday night, there was a march with torches to protest the gas extraction. Its organiser, Groningen Bodem Beweging, was expecting more than 3,000 participants, but the turn out was ultimately closer to 4,000.

Nederlands

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