Nearly 200 cows and horses had to be rescued on Monday from meadows that were on the brink of being flooded by rising rivers.
A total of 122 Konik horses, a semi-feral breed native to Poland, and 66 cattle in the Munnikeland nature reserve were herded onto the Wakkere Dijk, the only patch of dry ground left in the area of western Gelderland.
All the fields in the area around the fortified castle Slot Lovenstein have been flooded by water from the Maas and Waal rivers, which have been swelled by heavy rain in the Alps.
In a delicate operation, the cows and horses were guided to safety by forest rangers, one of whom followed the group slowly in a car. The rangers had to be careful not to startle the animals and make them bolt towards the water.
At one point the cows tried to turn back because two of the calves became separated from the group, but all the beasts eventually made their way to the dike, where they are likely to have to stay until the end of the week.
Towns and rural areas in the east of the country are having to take steps to protect land and communities from the rising waters. In Nijmegen the Waalkade is being closed to traffic from 6pm on Monday and street lighting switched off as the road is expected to flood.
Last week pathways in the Gelderse Poort area were closed to walkers to protect animals seeking shelter on higher ground. Anyone ignoring the locked gates risks having to pay a fine of €99.
The Maas, Rijn and Waal are expected to reach their peak level on Tuesday, when they will be 2.5 metres higher than normal for this time of year.
Waterschap Rivierenland, the water board for the eastern region that includes Arnhem and Nijmegen, said it expected the dikes to hold firm. ‘We haven’t seen anything unusual, just some flotsam here and there but not to the extent that the dikes are in danger.’
Elsewhere the combination of high river levels and bright sunshine at the weekend encouraged watersports enthusiasts to take to the water by boat, canoe and surfboard.
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