Factory farm fire death total nears 110,000 as 8,000 pigs die in Brabant blaze

Some 8,000 pigs died in a blaze at a factory farm in Heusden in the province of Brabant on Tuesday, taking the total number of animals to die in farm fires this year to over 100,000. The Brabants Dagblad reported that one of the farm workers heard an explosion shortly before the fire ripped through two barns housing the pigs. Heusden is the latest in a series of fires to hit factory farms in the Netherlands. In August some 2,500 pigs died in Didam near Arnhem while a year ago 20,000 pigs died at a mega farm in Gelderland. According to animal welfare organisation Wakker Dier some 100,000 animals have died in fires so far this year. Last year, there were 47 factory farm fires in the Netherlands and 229,000 animals were killed. An action plan to cut the number of fires put together by the industry, plus animal protection group Dierenbescherming, insurers and the fire brigade, says more needs to be done to make old barns more fire proof. Checks of the electrical installations of all barns housing livestock, one of the measures proposed in the plan, are currently under way. Thousands of barns have already been looked at. However, the plan does not include compulsory lightning conductors and sprinkler systems, stating instead that more research needs to be carried out. Last July, the pro-animal PvdD introduced a motion to parliament calling for better fire safety at factory farms, but it failed to win enough support. The three Christian parties and two Liberal parties D66 and VVD voted against the measure.  More >

King and queen begin state visit to UK

Dutch royals king Willem-Alexander and queen Máxima begin a two-day official state visit to Britain on Tuesday. The visit is thought to be aimed at strengthening Dutch-British ties ahead of the UK's  exit from the EU in six months’ time, Dutch media said. Ahead of the official procedures, the king and queen will meet members of the Dutch community in the UK with whom they will discuss ‘worries about the consequences of Brexit’, the programme states. Broadcaster NOS speculates the king may have to field questions about why the Netherlands is not prepared to grant dual nationality to people duped by Brexit, as Germany is doing. According to the NRC although Brexit is not ‘officially’ the reason for the state visit, it will almost certainly figure in the king’s speech to the British lower house of parliament on Tuesday afternoon. The king had told British journalists earlier that he regrets the decision of the British people and voiced concern about future trade relations. The Netherlands currently exports some €39bn worth of goods to the United Kingdom every year. The central message in the speech, however, will be that it will take more than Brexit to sever the ties that link the two countries both through family and trade, sources around the royal family told NOS. Brexit talks Foreign affairs minister Stef Blok, who is accompanying the royals, will meet his British counterpart Jeremy Hunt to discuss the final Brexit negotiations. According to the NRC, Britain has been putting pressure on the Netherlands to support its position by stressing the historic ties that unite the Netherlands and Britain. The king is scheduled to meet prime minister Theresa May, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn and various members of the British royal family in the course of the visit which is the first official state visit in almost 40 years.  More >

Homes evacuated after ATM blast fails

Some 30 homes in a low-rise apartment complex in Amsterdam's district of Nieuw-West were evacuated on Monday night after a failed attempt to blow up an ATM. The explosives were found around 4am. 'We were woken up by a loud banging ... and told we had to leave as soon as possible,' one woman told local broadcaster AT5. The explosives were placed next to the ATM outside a branch of the Albert Heijn supermarket chain and were removed by explosives experts. Tram services to the Lambertus Zijlplein were also disrupted while the explosives were being made safe. Locals, who had been looked after in the local library, were allowed to return to their homes at around 8am. In June several families had to be evacuated from their homes in Groningen after thieves tried to blow up an ATM in the wall of the block of flats where they lived. The public prosecution department said in April it is going to increase its sentencing demands for ram raiders and people who blow up ATMs. The current guidelines sentence is 15 months in jail for both offences, but the risk to both people and property is considerable, hence the need for tougher sentences, the public prosecutor said. In particular, thieves are using increasingly powerful explosives to blow up ATMs and this has increased the risk of buildings collapsing.  More >

Most freelance builders have no insurance

Over two-thirds of freelance builders have no insurance to cover them if they are unable to work, partly because insurance companies refuse to take them on, Trouw reports on Tuesday. In particular, the over-45s find it almost impossible to get disability insurance because insurers consider the risk of them becoming injured is too high, the paper said. Those who can get insurance find the cost - some €500 to €600 a month - to be prohibitive. And many policies include a clause stating that the over 60s are excluded anyway, the paper points out. A poll of members of the self-employed building sector lobby group Zelfstandigen Bouw found just 31% now have disability insurance, compared with 72% in 2010, before the huge surge in freelancing. There is pressure on the government from unions and some political parties who back the introduction of compulsory disability insurance for all freelancers. They argue that un-insured workers put too great a strain on the benefit system if they become unable to work through injury. A spokesman for the insurance association VvV told Trouw there is no point in offering building workers insurance if they can't afford the premiums.  More >

Eindhoven Ryanair crew strike over closure

Ryanair cabin crew based at Eindhoven airport are going on strike on Tuesday in protest at the Irish budget airline's plans to close its southern Dutch base, However, passengers are unlikely to notice much impact because Ryanair usually brings in crews from outside to make sure all the flights go ahead, news agency ANP reported. The airport's website says there may be some cancellations or delays. Ryanair said at the beginning of October it is closing its Eindhoven base, which currently operates four planes, but said ‘most routes to and from Eindhoven will continue on overseas based aircraft’. Some 50 or so pilots and 150 cabin crew are based in Eindhoven and the airline offers 155 flights from the airport per week. The announcement was made as Ryanair issued a profit warning, cutting the forecast from €1.25bn – €1.35bn, to a new range of €1.10bn – €1.20bn. The new figure is due to the summer strikes as well as higher oil prices, the airline said in a statement.  More >

Eurostar to boost direct London service

Train company Eurostar is to add one service a day to its direct route from London to Amsterdam and plans to more than double services in the future, the AD reported on Tuesday. Eurostar introduced the new service to Rotterdam and the Dutch capital in April and says the extra train will operate from June 2019. Currently passengers using the return service to London have to go through passport and security checks in Brussels, but officials hope this can be done at the Dutch stations by the end of next year. So far an extra 130,000 people have made use of the twice-daily direct service, Eurostar told the paper.   More >

Youths arrested in online fraud enquiry

Facebook app on mobile phone Police arrested 20 teenagers in Rotterdam at the weekend as part of an investigation into fraud by online traders on sites such as Marktplaats and Facebook. The youths, aged between 14 and 18, were part of a scam to sell phantom goods online, whereby buyers paid for items that were never delivered. Police said the scheme was run by criminals who persuaded the youngsters to give them access to their bank accounts in exchange for rewards ranging from a burger at McDonald's to several hundred euros. A spokesman said that only one of the teenagers arrested was part of the gang behind the fraud: 'We hope to identify more of the fraudsters on the basis of information that we obtain from interviews with the youths.' The suspects have been released from custody, many of them after being referred to the Halt service that deals with youth justice. Some have been ordered to undergo training courses in how to refuse requests to gain access to their bank accounts. Others were given a community service order and in one case a suspect was ordered to appear before a judge.  More >

ECB warns councils over PIN-only services

Local authorities that only accept bank card payments for items such as passports and driving licences have been warned they are breaching European rules on accessibility. The European Central Bank has written to the Dutch central bank and the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) to tell them they must offer citizens the option of paying in cash. While measures to encourage payment by card are acceptable, refusing to accept cash excludes people, such as the elderly, who are unable to or prefer not to pay electronically, and breaches European law. In a statement, the VNG said: 'Residents who cannot or choose not to pay by PIN must be able to pay cash. It is up to municipalities themselves to decide how to implement their payment policy.'   More >

Philips ready to act on US China trade war

Dutch electronics giant Philips is 'deadly serious' about possibly shifting production because of the trade war between the US and China, chief executive Frans van Houten said on Monday, the NRC reported. Speaking at the presentation of Philips' third quarter figures, Van Houten said: 'If the tariffs rise to 25% then that is what you have to do. Otherwise your business will stop. We can't always cut prices.' Philips, he said, was ready with plans to shift production of goods sold in the US to the US and to raise production in China to meet that market demand. 'We produce in both countries, so it would be a question of changing production lines around,' he said. Philips third quarter revenue rose €200m to €4.3bn, which was below analysts' forecasts. The news sent the company's share price down as much as 9.9%. Net profit, excluding incidentals, was up 17% at €307m.   More >

Amsterdam student refused entry to UK

Glasgow University Legal experts have denounced the decision to refuse an Amsterdam University student from Bosnia entry to the UK to attend an academic conference as 'irrational' and 'nonsensical'. Nadza Dzinalija, 21, travelled to Glasgow for the six-day conference organised by the university's psychology department, but immigration officials said they were 'not satisfied' she would leave even though she had a return flight booked for October 29. The Home Office raised concerns because her student visa was due to expire in December, The Independent reported. Dzinalija, who is on the first year of a two-year masters programme, applied in September for an extension to her visa, which was expected to be granted. She said: 'I was really surprised. I’ve applied for a lot of visas before and this is the first time I’ve had this experience. I’m bitterly disappointed that I can’t attend.' Immigration expert Jan Doerfel said the UK government's insinuation that the student would use an academic conference as a pretext to enter the UK illegally was 'unlawful' and 'deeply insulting to Nadza’s integrity'. He added it was a further blow to the UK's reputation for academic excellence as universities gear up for the challenge of attracting and maintaining top talent after the country leaves the European Union next March. 'It portrays a feeling of superiority and arrogance not only towards applicants’ actual life choices but also towards our European neighbours, as well as an insensitivity towards needs of academic institutions in this country which aim to keep the UK attractive and at the cutting edge of scientific research,' said Doerfel.  More >