Storm Zoltan hits western Europe, causing widespread damage and fatalities

Storm Zoltan hits western Europe, causing widespread damage and fatalities

Storm Zoltan (also known as Pia) moved over Germany and neighboring countries on December 21 and 22, 2023, bringing gale-force winds and heavy rains. The storm left several people dead, caused extensive damage, and disrupted traffic across the region.

In Germany, the Federal Maritime and Hydrographic Agency warned of severe storm surges along the North Sea coast, with water levels predicted to rise up to 3 m (10 feet) above mean high water in certain areas.

The bustling fish market and surrounding streets of Hamburg were completely submerged, with floodwaters reaching waist height. Rail operations have been severely affected due to fallen trees and damaged overhead lines, especially in northern Germany, as reported by Deutsche Bahn.

Zoltan has led to numerous accidents in Schleswig-Holstein and other parts, causing injuries and fatalities. Germany’s National Meteorological Service recorded wind gusts of 111 km/h (69 mph) in Hanover.

eumetsat meteosat satellite image of europe at 1115 utc on december 23 2023
Image credit: EUMETSAT/Meteosat, Zoom Earth, The Watchers. Acquired at 11:15 UTC on December 23, 2023

In Belgium’s Oudenaarde, the storm toppled a giant Christmas tree, killing a 63-year-old woman. The event has raised concerns over the safety of public installations during extreme weather conditions.

Additional fatalities were reported in Belgium and the Netherlands.

A 140 m (450 feet) long cruise ship lost power after a collision with a massive wave in the North Sea on December 21. One passenger said they spent 4 hours in survival suits and life vests while the Danish Coastguard and local oil rigs sent out rescue boats.

The wave smashed at least two windows on the bridge and the incoming seawater knocked out the navigation system and radar.

German media reported that three passengers were taken to a hospital upon disembarking, with broken bones, scrapes and bruises.

High seas also knocked containers from cargo ships, leaving beaches in Norway littered with goods.


1 Heavy rain and snow expected after Storm Zoltan ravages north Europe – DPA International – December 23, 2023

2 Storm Zoltan ravages Germany – Xinhua – December 22, 2023


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