Not only did the quake in Zeerijp on 8 January shatter the trust of the earthquake region’s residents, but their sense of safety has also taken a severe knock. Feelings of powerlessness and rage are rising fast. These are the findings laid out in a new report by Gronings Perspectief that research project leaders Prof. Tom Postmes and Dr Katherine Stroebe of the University of Groningen will be presenting to project commissioner Nationaal Coördinator Groningen on Wednesday 6 June.
For several years now, Gronings Perspectief has been following the fortunes of the residents of Groningen, not all of whom live in the area where gas extraction has caused such turmoil. Respondents were approached in the first 48 hours following the severe quake that hit Zeerijp on 8 January. Katherine Stroebe reports, ‘Many of them expressed shock. The number of people who no longer feel safe has soared. Emotions are running high: people are angry, there is a sense of powerlessness. Their trust in the authorities responsible for the situation, including the Dutch government, has hit rock bottom.’ For some, the sense of shock and stress is acute: they are sleeping badly, or feel estranged from their own country.
Results show that residents are not exaggerating. There is a close match between their observations and official measurements of the ground motions by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). The researchers also take this as evidence that people are answering questionnaires accurately and truthfully.
Between the day of the Zeerijp quake and 1 February 2018, 4,281 incidences of damage were reported. Most of them came from the locations where the shaking had been the most intense. There were almost no reports from locations unaffected by tremors.
The Zeerijp earthquake sparked increased interest in Groningen’s earthquake problems. Many residents see this as a welcome recognition of their plight. Others are less easily convinced. They don’t see how attention and ‘empty words’ are going to get them anywhere. Tom Postmes explains that there is a lot of scepticism and mistrust. Residents say they find it hard to believe that anything will actually change. They’ve been hearing nice rhetoric for years, but so far nothing has been done. They are waiting for the authorities responsible for dealing with the situation, in particular the government and gas company NAM, to acknowledge the problem and act. And there, perhaps, you have essence of their despair: the population feels dependant on parties they don’t trust.
Prof. Postmes and Dr Stroebe and their team at the University of Groningen’s faculty of behavioural and social sciences was commissioned by Nationaal Coördinator Groningen (an organization that supports the interests of Groningen’s residents) to carry out research into the health, sense of safety and future prospects of the residents of the whole of Groningen. In six surveys, residents of all the municipalities in the earthquake region answered questions on these topics. Separate research was also carried out via the screening organisation LifeLines. The findings have been documented in several scientific reports, published on the following site: groningsperspectief.nl .
Gronings Perspectief is a cooperation between the University of Groningen, Groningen’s Municipal Health Service and the Research and Statistics department of the Municipality of Groningen. The researchers are assisted by a support committee comprising the local municipalities, the Municipal Health Service, Groninger Bodem Beweging (a support group for local residents affected by earthquake damage), Nationaal Coördinator Groningen, the province of Groningen, public order and safety organization de Veiligheidsregio, local rural interest group Vereniging Groninger Dorpen and scientific experts.
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