“I‘m not a poor Groninger. I am a resident of the Netherlands. I’m just a Dutch citizen. I have the right to have the government protect me, offer me safety where possible”. These are the words of Frouke Postma-Doornbos from Schildwolde, mother of three now adult sons, during the public interrogations of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into Groningen for natural gas extraction. She did not experience that government protection, she described this morning.
The years of struggle to preserve and restore their 1930s home left deep marks on her, her husband, and their children. She told how her children grew up in a stressed environment with stressed parents. “I just failed. We were so busy with the house that we didn‘t realize that our youngest son was getting severely depressed.”
Postma and her husband bought their house in Schildwolde in 1992, but there was no damage to their home, although there had been occasional earthquakes in the area.
During the worst earthquake so far in the province (2012), the family was on vacation on Texel. When they came home after the holidays, there appeared to be a big crack in the basement wall and the floor was completely wet. Since that time, they have been involved in a fight over the settlement of the damage. Her husband became upset and Postma herself had heart problems.
Sixty times coffee
She describes that in 2012, it was completely unclear who you could report damage to. Later, other organizations and people came to whom they could report, with different claims protocols all the time.
When asked if she can estimate how many different people she had to deal with, she replied, “I started counting that once. Apart from all builders, i.e. people who came by to inspect the damage and deal with the damage, that was about sixty people within a year”. Afterwards, she wondered how crazy she had been to make coffee over and over again, always with a friendly face, to prevent things from getting even more complicated.
Monster under the ground
But it’s not just the outrage about fighting to restore the home, in a way that does justice to the house, that Postma breaks up. The earthquakes themselves also do a lot to the sense of safety. She talks about an earthquake during a party in the garden. The mood is in good shape at that time, the damage has been repaired. She almost apologizes saying that it may sound childish, “but it was like a monster in the ground opening its mouth. At that moment, I thought, when will it stop? When can we take up our lives?”
Postma pleads with the committee for social workers, who assist people at district level. Now the victims must fight alone over their homes. But, she says, not everyone can do that. And because it has a lot of impact, just like on her family, she would have loved it if someone had stood by their side to offer help.
Since 2018, the specially created Institute for Mining Damage Groningen has been processing all reported damages. The number of claims so far is over 173,000. Since this weekend, another 136 have been added due to the earthquakes near Uithuizen.