THE HAGUE (AFP) – Several people ignored warnings not to skate on the thin ice of a rarely-frozen pond in the Netherlands on Friday (Feb 12) only to plunge into the chilly waters behind the offices of the prime minister, who was among those warning them off.
The country was hit by its first proper snowstorm in over a decade on the weekend, sparking excitement in the pancake-flat country where almost everyone is said to have a pair of skates ready for when the canals freeze over.
But Prime Minister Mark Rutte has warned against mass skating, to avoid the risk of spreading Covid-19 as well as injuries potentially clogging already under pressure hospitals.
The city council of The Hague issued a more specific warning for no one to skate on the Hofvijver pond because the ice was too thin – several people had already fallen in trying.
But that didn’t stop several amateur enthusiasts on Friday, who promptly broke through the ice into the freezing water beneath.
Passers-by helped the hopeful skaters get out of the water, an AFP journalist said.
Emergency services rescuers in special protective gear eventually escorted some of them to the shore, as hundreds of curious people looked on around the pond, which is in the centre of the city.
This week’s cold snap briefly raised hopes that a legendary ice skating race could be revived for the first time in nearly a quarter-century. Global warming has meant the Elfstedentocht (Eleven Cities Race) hasn’t been able to be held since 1997.
But Rutte ruled the race out, saying skating must be limited to pairs due to anti-coronavirus restrictions.
“And please don’t fall and have to go to the hospital because it is already so busy there,” he warned.