Soualiga Newsday Features

Soualiga Newsday Features (2219)

Man gunned down in Rotterdam had flown home from Morocco days earlier

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Police have identified a 25-year-old man who was shot dead in the street in Rotterdam late on Sunday evening. The shooting happened in Bergselaan, in the city’s northern district, at about 10pm.

Witnesses said they heard rapid gunfire for around half a minute, suggesting the killers used automatic weapons. Brahim Bourzik, editor of the Moslimkrant newspaper, said he had been told by sources that the victim had travelled back to Rotterdam from Morocco on a repatriation flight a few days earlier.

The man’s identity has not been officially disclosed but he is believed to live locally. A woman entered the police cordon in her socks soon after the incident crying out: ‘my brother, my brother.’

The killers are thought to have fled the scene in an Audi sports car. A similar vehicle was set on fire under the Spaansbrug bridge shortly afterwards. Vincent Karremans, leader of the Liberal party (VVD) group on Rotterdam city council, said the shooting took place close to his home.

‘It was half a minute of shots and loud bangs. The noise was rapid and extremely loud. ‘I ran to the scene but there was a woman already trying to resuscitate him. When a policeman arrived on a motorbike to help, it was clear that it was too late.’

Karremans said the shooting was likely to be drugs-related. ‘I’ve seen so much crap since I’ve been on the council. All because of drugs, or at least that’s how it looks, although it’s only speculation.’



American, Mexican, Colombian are arrested at drugs lab in Gelderland

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have arrested three men from Mexico, Colombia and the US in a raid on a drugs lab in the Gelderland village of Achter Drempt.

The arrests took place on Friday when police in protective gear raided the lab in a farm shed in the village of some 350 people. They found chemicals capable of making drugs – crystal meth – with a street value of some €10m.

‘We know drugs gangs operate internationally, and that Dutch people are sometimes arrested abroad,’ spokesman Thomas Aling told local broadcaster Omroep Nederland.

‘But this is the first time we have picked up three people from different countries, with no Dutch national among them.’

Police said in February that they have been busting an increasing number of crystal meth labs, probably because it is more expensive than ecstasy or amphetamines.

Last year police broke up nine crystal meth labs, compared with seven in 2018. Two were bust in the first two months of this year.



New future for Amsterdam post-corona tourism with ‘right’ visitors

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – It’s unclear when international tourists will be back in the Netherlands – but the head of Amsterdam’s marketing organisation wants to build a different kind of future when they return.

Geerte Udo, chief executive of amsterdam&partners, has told DutchNews that the city will aim to build a new industry that is socially, economically and ecologically ‘sustainable’.

Instead of attracting the hen parties and stag nights who once turned the red-light district into an all-night party, it is aiming for a culture and history-loving audience.

‘Amsterdam has always been an open and international city, and we would love to welcome visitors as soon as possible,’ she told DutchNews. ‘But the right visitors.’

For years, city residents have been complaining about the negative effects of over-tourism and the current city government is imposing stringent measures to contain the nuisance.

Tourist tax has been raised, new tourist shops banned in the centre since 2017, and the council is pushing ahead with a ban on holiday rentals in three areas including the red-light district from July 1.

Its figures suggest that one in 15 homes has been listed on Airbnb, and that 25,000 advertisements are on holiday rentals sites – a five-fold increase in recent years.

‘Around 80% of residents in the Centrum area experience a lot or regular nuisance from holiday home rentals,’ head of housing Laurens Ivens has said.

Turning point

Udo sees the corona crisis as a potential turning point, however, in marketing Amsterdam. ‘The impact of the intelligent lockdown is very heavy on the whole industry, but it shows what Amsterdam is with only locals,’ she explained.

‘We [will] invest in the future to build a better reputation, adjust the offers (banning Airbnb in the centre) and [use] policies on mono cultural shops.’

A strategy of clear communication will be aimed at attracting the right kinds of visitors and deterring others from certain areas.

‘It is totally different [to host] culture or history lovers to stag parties that only use your city as a backdrop,’ she added. ‘We have to make sure that the balance between living, working and visiting comes back, starting with local offers for locals so that they can start using [the red-light district] again.’

The council’s current evaluation into the future of prostitution windows in the red-light district and coffee shops is also expected to play a role in the new tourism vision for Amsterdam, which last year had almost 19 million overnight guests.



Coronavirus hits refugee centre in Friesland, 22 positive tests so far

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – A refugee centre in Sneek in Friesland has been hit by a coronavirus outbreak, and so far, 20 of the 500 residents have been found to have the virus, the local health board has confirmed.

Officials are now testing all the residents and expect the real infection rate to be far higher, news agency ANP reported. The centre has been closed for three days while testing of residents and workers is carried out.

Refugees found to be carrying the virus will be confined to their rooms.



Researchers discover seabed volcano 100 km from Texel

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – The geological department of the Dutch research institute TNO has discovered a dead volcano three kilometres below sea level, some 100 kilometres north west of the Wadden island Texel.

The newly found volcano, which was named Mulciber after the Roman god of fire and is 150 million years old, was found when scientists were reviewing old geological data of the North Sea on behalf of energy companies in search of gas beneath the ocean floor.

What gave the presence of the volcano away were a number of anomalies in the structure of the subsoil and the earth’s magnetic field, geologist Michiel van der Meulen said.

Fifty years ago similar changes led to the discovery of the Zuidwalvulkaan, another dead volcano in the Wadden Sea. Van der Meulen said, the North Sea may well hide more.

The tally for Dutch volcanoes is now four, including Mount Scenery on Saba and Quill in St Eustatius. Both Caribbean islands, part of the former Dutch colonies in the area, have the status of a Dutch local authority.

Van der Meulen called the discovery a one off. ‘How many times in a geologist’s career do you get to find and name a volcano? Studying the North Sea and the geological sediments in it is like reading a great book.

We think we know the gist of the story but every time we go back to it, we get to know the protagonists and the story lines better. In that sense this discovery adds to what we already know about our living environment,’ Van der Meulen told broadcaster NOS.

The data revisited by Van der Meulen and his team dates from the 1980s. ‘The geological data gathered as a result of exploratory drilling by companies always comes to us.

It would cost billions to do it all again so that is why we have this treasure trove.’ The information is of enormous value for the future of sustainable energy, Van der Meulen told the broadcaster.

‘Old data which aimed a pumping up gas and oil can now be used for geothermal energy or CO2 storage research,’ he said.



Blue sky thinking: Almost one million homes have solar panels

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Almost one in eight households in the Netherlands have solar panels on their roof, and this means one million homes will have solar panels by the summer, according to energy research institute DNER.

The figures are based on information from manufacturers, wholesalers and installation companies. Later this month, the national statistics office CBS will publish its own figures on solar panel usage for 2019.

‘2019 was a good year for the solar panel sector and this year things are going well too,’ DNER spokesman Rolf Heynen told the AD. ‘The one million home limit will be broken soon.’

At least 200,000 of the properties with solar panels are rental homes, and housing corporations own the bulk of these. Cheap loans aimed at encouraging the switch to solar panels are one reason why more people are opting to make the switch to green energy, the AD said.



Almost 50% of Dutch companies say they can’t survive six months of crisis

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Almost 50% of companies working outside the financial sector say they might go bust if the coronavirus pandemic lasts more than six month, according to research by national statistics agency CBS and several employers’ organisations.

The research carried out at the beginning of April, also shows 15% of firms say they cannot survive beyond two months of crisis. Small firms, with five to 20 employees, are most pessimistic, with 22% saying they will fold if the crisis lasts two months.

This rises to 36% for the hospitality industry. Landlords and property companies are the least pessimistic with just 4% saying they cannot last two months. Some 75% of companies in the survey said they expected a reduction in turnover in the second quarter of the year, with 44% forecasting a drop of more than 22%.

Meanwhile, supermarket online sales continue to soar, hitting a record €36.7m last week. The increase is due to an easing of capacity problems, now more staff have been taken on to meet demand, Retail News reported.



Gyms furious they can’t reopen, call for government rethink

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch fitness centres and gyms have reacted angrily to the government’s decision not to allow them to reopen until September, although prime minister Mark Rutte did pledge to start talks about an earlier opening.

Sector lobby group NL Actief said the government’s decision, announced at a news conference on Wednesday night, is ‘unacceptable’. It said the arguments used by the government – such as the 1.5 metre distance requirement – did not hold water.

During his press conference Rutte spoke about the problems associated with gyms, in which ‘you get sweaty in small spaces ‘and about the difficulty of ensuring equipment is cleaned.

‘We are not going to let this drop. The government is leaving 4,000 companies and three million people in the cold,’ the organisation said. ‘We are going all out with our entire network to fight this, and to demand a new compensation ruling for companies and the self-employed in our sector.’

The government has said adults can start practicising sports outside again from May 11, as long as there is no physical contact, and has agreed to open swimming pools.



Coronavirus crisis scuppers holiday plans for millions

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Some 7.2 million people are currently making holiday plans this year, down 39% on last year’s figures, a survey by NBTC-NIPO Research has shown.

The probe, which was carried out among a representative sample of 11,000 people, confirmed that the coronavirus travel restrictions and related uncertainties have scuppered the usual holiday preparations of almost five million people.

The survey covered holidays of more than one week in the period between May and September. ‘In many cases people are thinking of going at a later date, so it’s not as they will definitely not go,’ NBTC- NIPO director Marieke Politiek said.

The biggest impact of the current crisis will be felt on the international holiday market, the survey found. Some five million people want to go abroad, a fall of 43% compared to last year with 7.2 million planning to holiday at home.

The rest of the respondents said they had not decided yet. ‘Holidays are very important to the Dutch,’ Politiek said. We are known in Europe for our appetite for travelling.

This survey shows that people really want to go on holiday, and although many holiday plans have been influenced by the crisis, almost half of the people said they would postpone and not cancel,’ she said.

People are researching how safe a destination is, something that was particularly mentioned by people who plan to holiday in the Netherlands, Politiek said. For tourists wanting to head south much will depend on the government policies of popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy and Portugal.

In Spain, for example, where hotels are allowed to open from May 11, a number of hotel owners have already said that it will take at least until June to put in place prescribed hygiene measures.

And some have said that with a 30% occupancy rate it makes no economic sense to open at all. In the Netherlands campsites and holiday parks can reopen completely, including communal washrooms and toilet facilities from July 1.

Prime minister Mark Rutte said at his press conference on Wednesday night that foreign travel remains for essential journeys only. Any easing of this situation depends on other countries as well, he said.



Police find €12.5m in cash stashed in a house in Eindhoven

SINT MAARTEN/THE NETHERLANDS – Dutch police have found €12.5m in cash hidden in a secret space in a terraced house in Eindhoven in what they say is the biggest cash haul ever made at a single location in the Netherlands.

The money, in notes of up to €500 weighed a combined 255 kilos. The raid also netted two guns, a telephone which used encryption technology and a cash counting machine.

The 35-year-old resident has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering and remanded in custody for 14 days. Police have not said how they came to find the money because the investigation is ongoing or exactly where in Eindhoven the house was located.

Last year Amsterdam police recovered €12.8m in cash from five separate addresses. In that investigation, seven people were arrested and charged with drugs offences.


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