Even without gas extraction, ‘quakes will continue for a long time’

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Koen Schuiling, the mayor of Groningen, does not dare to predict when the earthquakes in Groningen will be over. ‘Even if we shut down all gas extraction today, no one knows how long it will take for the soil to settle again,’ he says. Last night an earthquake occurred in Zijldijk in Groningen. According to the KNMI, the quake had a magnitude of 2.1.

Schuiling rejects predictions that earthquake damage will be resolved within a few years. ‘Keep dreaming, that will go on for a long time. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.’

A government response to the final report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into gas extraction in Groningen is still pending. Schuiling believes that this response should also pay attention to what the earthquake damage has done mentally to residents. He also lacks solutions from the cabinet. He wants ‘proper claims handling’ for the people of Groningen. ‘Not all legal procedures and no authorities that work at cross purposes.’

Little trust

That government response must also be understandable to everyone, says Schuiling. ‘It is very important that you, as an ordinary, inexperienced reader, understand what it will mean for that person personally. If the government can explain that, then I think we can achieve a lot.’

‘My confidence in the cabinet is now below 50 percent’

Koen Schuiling, mayor of Groningen

The cabinet will probably come up with that response in a few weeks. Until then, Schuiling has little confidence in the government’s ability to handle claims properly. That confidence is now below 50 percent. It very much depends on how specific the cabinet is in its response.’

Not off the ground

The mayor has some fear that the damage settlement will not get off the ground in the short term, he says with a sigh. ‘We also saw that in the handling of the benefits affair. People set to work with the best intentions and then things happen again that make it impossible to achieve. We can’t afford that here anymore. It’s not just about safety, but also about the well-being of the people in our province.’

Mayor Koen Schuiling thinks that the earthquakes in Groningen could continue for years to come. (ANP / Robin van Lonkhuijsen)

Schuiling believes that, in addition to handling claims, the main thing that needs to be done is restoring confidence among the people of Groningen, which he also includes himself. He also believes that this will not be possible within a few years. ‘That really takes a generation.’

Big thump

Several residents around the epicenter of last night’s quake told RTV Noord that they had felt the quake. A resident of the nearby village of ‘t Zand noticed “a big thump”, another resident felt “two heavy thumps and a strong, short vibration,” he told the regional broadcaster.

The heaviest quakes in Groningen since 2006 had a magnitude between 3.1 and 3.6. Yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives debated the final report of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into gas extraction in Groningen.

In her report, she concluded that the safety of Groningen residents had been subordinated to economic and financial interests for decades. According to the committee, the Netherlands has ‘a debt of honor’ to residents of Groningen. Today the debate continues and the committee itself has its say.

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