One million homes hit by power cut, railway services in chaos

One million homes hit by power cut, railway services in chaos

A million households were left without power, rail services were in chaos and shops and schools forced to close after a massive power cut in Noord-Holland province on Friday. The failure itself lasted about an hour but the knock on effect disrupted public transport services and forced hospitals to use emergency generators. Train services in much of the country will remain disrupted for the rest of the day because of a massive power failure in Noord-Holland, officials said on Friday afternoon. [banner] Engineers had to free hundreds of people who were trapped in trains when the power went dead. Amsterdam’s central station is packed with trains which cannot leave and thousands of travellers have been stranded. Airline KLM cancelled some 20 flights because planes could not land but officials say the airport is now returning to normal. There was also a jam of ships waiting to use the sluice at Ijmuiden which could not be opened. Police The power cut hit large parts of Amsterdam, Haarlem and other Noord-Holland towns and villages. According to local broadcaster AT5, there were no serious incidents due to the power cut. People were trapped in lifts and trams, shops were forced to close because their automatic doors and tills no longer worked, and schools sent thousands of pupils home. Extra police were drafted onto the streets to control traffic. The power failure was caused by problems at a substation in Diemen and grid association Netbeheer Nederland said the outage is one of the most serious in the last 10 years. The cause of the power failure has not yet been established. A spokesman for grid operator Tennet said it is not clear why the back-up system which should have kicked in did not function properly.  More >

ABN Amro sale on ice after pay row

One million homes hit by power cut, railway services in chaos Finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem has delayed the sale of nationalised bank ABN Amro because of the commotion over executive pay. Dijsselbloem was due to announce the date for the IPO this month and insiders expected the launch would be before the summer. However, the row over the bank’s decision to give €100,000 pay rises to senior executives to get around the new limit on bonuses has now prompted a rethink. In a three sentence letter to parliament, the minister said he is delaying the sale because of all the questions he has been asked by the finance committee. [banner] ABN Amro said in a reaction the timing is ‘up to the minister’. Fury MPs and customers reacted furiously to the pay rises. Dijsselbloem said at the time he regretted the situation but was powerless to act. Commentators said the decision to delay the IPO is a sign of Dijsselbloem’s anger and a clear signal to the bank itself. ABN Amro was nationalised in 2008 following its takeover by a consortium of other banks. The state hopes to earn €15bn from the sale, less than half the total bill for its rescue. Morality Questioned by reporters later on Friday Dijsselbloem said he needed time to discuss the latest events with ministers and MPs. ‘Such a major decision requires calm and confidence,’ he said. However, according to website, he would not appeal to the ABN Amro board to reject their pay rises. ‘I spoke to them about this last year and they made it clear they are not prepared to. It is up to them to reach their own conclusions about the criticism,’ he is quoted as saying. ‘It is a question of morality,’ he said. ‘Do they think it is responsible when bank workers have had their pay frozen for years and thousands have lost or are losing their jobs?’  More >

Buddha mummy ownership in dispute

Buddha mummy owner will return it if rightful village owner is found: NRC A Dutch private collector who owns a Buddha statue with a mummy inside it will return it to a Chinese village if it is proved to be stolen from there, the NRC reports. The collector told the paper the Buddha can be returned if the original community which owned it is traced but that he will not hand it over to a Chinese state museum. Questions about the 1,000 year old Buddha's ownership have arisen since it became the star item in a show at the Hungarian natural history museum in Budapest. [banner] Pictures of the Buddha were shown on a Chinese news programme, leading villagers in Yangchun to claim it had been stolen from their temple in 1995. However, the collector says he has photographic evidence it was already in the Netherlands at that time. He has since withdrawn the statue from the exhibition, fearing it could be stolen. Collector The NRC says the owner is currently researching the statue’s origins, including carrying out DNA tests. The owner, whose identity has been kept secret, claims to have bought it for 40,000 guilders (around €18,000). In a statement to Chinese news agency Xinhua, the owner said he bought it in 1996 from another collector who had acquired it in late 1994 or early 1995 from a Chinese artist friend. The statue’s secrets have gradually been uncovered over the past few years and cat scans were done in 2013 and 2014, revealing the skeleton. The Buddha has also been on display at the Drents Museum in Assen for some time.  More >

Tax office cleared to use police footage

Tax office can use police camera footage to check on company car drivers: court The tax office can continue to check car number plates recorded on police motorway cameras in their efforts to catch people who cheat on their company car allowance, the appeal court in Den Bosch said on Friday. While using police camera images is an infringement of personal privacy, this can be justified because it is the most efficient way of making the checks, the court said. The case was brought by a man who said his privacy had been infringed by the tax office action. People who driver fewer than 500 kilometres a year privately in their company cars do not have to pay tax over catalogue value of the vehicle. [banner] The court said the tax office has to check a very large number of company car drivers and this should happen as efficiently as possible, justifying the use of cameras. In addition, other methods of checking up on drivers could be more privacy sensitive, the court said. Mobile phone Last year, the courts also ruled that a company which enables people to pay for car parking by mobile phone must hand over client details to the tax office. In that ruling, the court also acknowledged that handing over the information conflicts with privacy legislation but said this is outweighed by the public interest and need to levy correct amounts of tax. Tax inspectors already use cars fitted with special scanners in an effort to track down people who use their company cars for private business. Festivals, out-of-town shopping centres, sports events and other popular destinations are targeted in particular.  More >

Jeweler in court over unlicenced gun

One million homes hit by power cut, railway services in chaos A jeweler who had an unlicenced gun and was shot with it by his wife during a robbery should be given a six month suspended jail term and 200 hours community service, the public prosecution service said on Friday. Willy S’s wife Marina shot the two robbers dead and injured her husband during the attack on their jewelers store in March last year. The woman does not face any charges because justice officials say she acted in self defence. The maximum sentence for possessing an illegal weapon is four years. [banner] The public prosecutor said that although S had been forced to fight for his life, illegal weapons escalate the situation. ‘Our society is not served by illegal guns,’ he said. S’s lawyer had called him to be pardoned, saying the sentencing demand only added to the couple’s suffering. Marina, he said, had spend some time in a psychiatric clinic. Police also found a taser and pepper spray when they searched the jewelry store after the robbery. Both had been bought after a previous robbery and both are illegal weapons, news agency ANP reported.  More >