'Avoid the seafront': Flemish fire services get 40,000 calls due to storm Franklin

'Avoid the seafront': Flemish fire services get 40,000 calls due to storm Franklin
Credit: Belga

People in the coastal town of Ostend are urged to avoid the sea dike and its side streets as much as possible on Monday, after three people were injured due to the strong wind gusts of Storm Franklin.

Shortly after storm Eunice, Franklin is passing over Belgium on Monday, prompting a 'code orange' warning along the coast, and 'code yellow' in the rest of the country, with gusts of up to 120 km/h predicted.

"Urgent call to avoid the seafront and side streets in Ostend as much as possible today," said Ostend mayor Bart Tommelein on Twitter. "Three people have already been injured, including a double fracture of the arm. Our emergency services already have their hands full."

On its website, the municipality cautioned that the dikes are "absolutely not safe today," and also warned people to stay away from parks and forests.

As of Sunday evening at 18:00, the coastal tram traffic along the seafront is interrupted at various places, as no trams have been operating between Ostend and Westende. In Blankenberge, too, there has been no tram traffic since Monday afternoon due to storm damage, such as fallen roof tiles. In both places, replacement busses are deployed.

In the meantime, the umbrella organisation of fire brigades in Flanders announced via Twitter that all its services received a total of 40,524 storm-related calls in recent days.

The network added that 37,535 of those calls have now been completed. "We are still helping 2,989 families (7.4% of the total) as quickly as possible. Use the 1722 number for damage from storm Franklin."

Eunice and Franklin caused the most severe damage in Deinze, in the province of East Flanders, where six houses were deemed uninhabitable after the heavy gusts of wind destroyed the roofs of three homes.

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Further from the coast, damage to the roof of a terminal at Brussels Airport caused a number of flight delays, and the Mini-Europe theme park in Brussels also suffered an estimated €50,000 worth of damage.

Meanwhile, weather reporter David Dehenauw and head of forecasting at the RMI announced that the institute "overestimated the wind at sea and the tide a little today," adding that "although a storm of 9 Bft was measured, the gusts were only 90 km/h."

While the storm calmed down a little on Monday evening, VRT weather reporter Sabine Hagedoren warned that it is still not completely over.

"In the coming hours, we will still see intense rain showers. Behind the rain zone, there are still some bright spots. From the West, it will gradually become drier and calmer," she said. "Especially in the centre and the (north) east, they still get showers. Locally, this may also include thunder and hail. That can also be fairly intense."

The wind has not died down yet either, but the peak has been reached already. The strongest gusts happened around 16:00 and 17:00, said Hagedoren.

"But there could still be outbreaks between the showers. By the evening, we will have gusts of up to 65 kilometres per hour, that is 'calmer'. In the course of the night, we will drop to 3 Bft and then the big gusts will be gone," she added. On Tuesday, there will still be a lot of wind, but a lot less strongly than during the weekend and on Monday.

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