The first floods

On 26 December 838, a large area of the northwest of the Netherlands was hit by a storm tide. The major factor contributing to the severity of this disaster was the lack of effective dikes. There is very little information available about this disaster because only two reports are known to exist. The first report comes from Bishop Prudentius of Troyes. In his annals, which cover the years from 835 to 861, he wrote that the whole of ‘Frisia’ was flooded by the sea. People, animals and houses were devoured by the water. The water rose as high as the dunes. According to the counts there were 2,437 victims. With Frisia, Prudentius was not only referring to the present-day area of Friesland, but the entire Dutch coastal area. The second source comes from the so-called ‘Annales Xantenses’. On the same day, the 26th of December, these annals refer to a heavy tornado, which made the water surge over the coasts, resulting in floods that destroyed a large number of settlements.

The next known disaster occurred on the 28th of September 1014. For the first time ever, the partially closed coastal line of the Low Lands was breached. One of the sources mentioned that “Walcheren” suffered a particularly large amount of damage. It took years before people managed to get their lives back on track. The chronicle of the Quedlinburg abbey in Saxony reports that thousands of people met their deaths.