A crucial Dutch government website to supply the public with information in case of disasters was unavailable during last week's chemical blaze owing to a human blunder.
Three government ministers have confirmed that the crisis.nl web address directed visitors to the non-public maintenance part of the website, instead of to the public pages. When the site was flooded with requests from people worried about the chemical fall-out from the Moerdijk fire, the site administrators themselves were also locked out and could not redress the error.
The fire in a chemical packaging factory south of Rotterdam on 5 January sent a plume of potentially toxic fumes and soot over a large area in the Netherlands. No-one was killed or injured in the fire.
At the time it was assumed that the information site went down because the servers could not cope with the demand, but that was denied by the government and the website managers. It was caused by a webmaster error.
Security Minister Ivo Opstelten, Health Minister Edith Schippers and Deputy Environment Minister Joop Atsma have reprimanded the website's management, and have assured MPs that better arrangements will be made to prevent the site being unreachable. The ministers said it was unacceptable for the website to be down: "That is undesirable and we should not allow that to happen. The website is for informing citizens during calamities and disasters. It is vital for this site to be available at all times."
The blunder was revealed by online magazine webwereld.nl, which discovered the incorrect "redirect". Under normal circumstances, crisis.nl is redirected to a general public information website, and during emergencies the web address leads visitors to the website of the local authority closest to the calamity. The site currently links to information provided by the Moerdijk fire crisis team in North Brabant province.
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