‘I have had enough moments that I thought: I cannot cope anymore. Now I will go to the NAM [joint venture of ExxonMobil and Shell oil corporations, which made billions from drilling gas while giving local people earthquakes] site and set it on fire.’
A father who lives with his family in the earthquake area
The gas extraction in Groningen and the resulting earthquakes lead to a lot of stress and health problems among residents. There is a lot of stress, leading to, eg, physical complaints and relationship problems.
A report by the University of Groningen makes painfully clear what damage to houses can do with the psyche of those affected. Some residents tell their stories extensively. Like a father who lives with his family in the local countryside. His home has been hit several times by earthquakes. The damage is big and the road to a solution is long and viscous.
It started for the man in September 2015, with the Hellum earthquake. He had damage to his garage, his façade and his pantry. An expert ruled that the damage had not been caused by the earthquakes. Later this was withdrawn when the man had proof that this was indeed the case.
All tiles off the walls
Meanwhile, the family was having the problem. In January 2016, that became even worse after a new earthquake. “Everything began to tremble, it cracked, it moved and down I heard a bang, and all tiles were broken off the walls.”
Again an expert came along and nothing was awarded. Not long after that, that was annulled, but it still caused stress. And it was not finished with that. There were reports, but the amounts that were mentioned were much too low. …
After long detours, the damage repair could start. Already at the beginning of the renovation it became clear that there was much more damage than could be seen at first. “We immediately reported this and an appointment was made with an expert.” The father urged the expert to quickly come up with a report. “But that did not happen, and the agreements were already in place.” The contractor was ready.”
My daughter said, “Dad, I do not want to be here anymore. I do not think the house is beautiful anymore’.
The father who lives with his family in the earthquake area
The house was a construction site. “No kitchen, no heating, in the middle of winter, with small children, the whole ceiling out, furniture gone, we’ve been sitting like this for six to eight weeks.”
In the end, the family decided to pay for the renovation out of their own pocket. “From December 2015 until a month ago I have only had stress, and as a victim you have to fight for every nail in the wall.”
The stress sometimes drove the father to the edge of the abyss. “I’ve had enough moments that I thought: I cannot cope anymore, so I’m going to the NAM site and I’ll set it on fire.”
It has not come this far, but there have been enough difficult moments. “In the days when the house was open to rain and wind, my daughter said, “Dad, I do not want to be here anymore, I do not think the house is beautiful anymore.” Then I broke down.”
With this resident, the stress did not turn into physical complaints. But doctor Ryanne Addink sees it happen often enough. She works in Middelstum. “I see quite a few people with stress-related complaints.”
There are very poignant cases, she tells the NOS Radio 1 News. “Like an elderly couple whose home has been demolished, people who already had health problems and you see recovery after illness just takes much longer, they also have a lot of stress and sleepless nights, all because of the problems around their homes.”
In the report, a woman speaks who also experiences physical problems. “My resilience is gone.” She is not only sleeping badly. “I also have asthma and chronic arthrosis, and if I exert too much physical effort, I get pain, but I also react very strongly to stress.”
In addition, her relationship was also under pressure. “Because of the earthquake problem, problems arose between my husband and me. I could not get away from it and my husband had a hard time with that.” In the meantime things are getting better, partly because they go out a lot. “We try to have a nice day, but not at home.”
The woman feels unsafe in her own home. “In case of a heavy quake of four on the Richter scale, houses like this will be no longer standing.” The woman, together with her husband, does not have the possibility to leave the area. The value of their house has dropped considerably and it is still questionable whether it could be sold at all.