As expected, storm Odette made landfall yesterday at the Belgian coast and caused widespread damage there and inland in West Flanders province.
In Middelkerke, a worker was seriously injured when a wall collapsed under the winds of up to 100km/h. The man was taken to the hospital.
Another wall collapsed on a building site in Blankenberge, where it was due to be demolished anyway. The street was closed off for a time.
On the beaches up and down the coast, winds caused damage to beach bars, cabins and even deckchairs that had been left out by owners despite advance warnings of high winds. As a result, much of the material was damaged or destroyed.
Also in Blankenberge, the famous pier has been closed for the whole weekend, as waves of up to four metres were expected, the agency for coast and maritime services said.
The storm was at its height between 16.30 and 18.00, by which time the fire brigade in the western sector of the coast had received 44 emergency calls. As Odette moved further inland, the winds lessened somewhat.
The damage, though widespread, was mainly minor: traffic signs blowing away, beach furniture, shop awnings and loose material on building sites. In De Panne, a portable toilet on one site blew away.
Many incidents concerned fallen branches and uprooted trees blocking roads. Three firemen were injured, one of them requiring hospital treatment, when a branch fell from a tree that had already partially blocked a road in Alveringem, some 15km inland from De Panne.
In Nieuwpoort, two people were injured after being literally blown away by gusts.
“These people were who were walking in a side street off the seafront,” said Barbara Wyseure of the town’s emergency planning department.
“Suddenly they got the full force of the wind on them and could no longer stand upright.”
The two suffered cuts in a fall, and were taken to hospital.
“We urge everyone to stay indoors as much as possible. It’s dangerous outside,” she said.
Meanwhile today, while the whole country experiences clouds, rain and wind, the coast can expect to be hit again, with winds of up to 110km/h today and 80km/h on Sunday. By Monday, drier weather will approach from the west.