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Freak Summer Storm Bashes Germany, Europe

An unusually violent summer storm unfurls a small tornado, flooding and leaves millions in damages in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.


A twister knocked the roof off a Duisburg theater

On Sunday evening, theater goers at a community theater in Duisburg, western Germany, were enjoying a performance of "Scenes of Bohemian Life" as an alarm went off in the building. A small tornado had just torn the roof off the ballet hall next door, throwing it into the theaters' inner courtyard, police said.

Just after 9 p.m., the small tornado, with 120-kilometer per hour winds, wound its way through the cities of Duisburg, Oberhausen and Essen. The twister ripped roofs off buildings, it uprooted trees, overturned scores of cars and spectacularly, turned a 180-ton loading crane on its side in the Duisburg harbor. In the town of Viersen, the tornado even sucked a 1-ton horse trailer 500 meters into the air like a toy.

The twister was part of a freak storm that wreaked havoc across parts of western Europe on Sunday night. Calls from people needing to have their flooded cellars pumped out and others seeking help overwhelmed emergency services, and police have estimated damages in the double-digit millions.

"I haven't experienced anything in my 63 years," Duisburg resident Robert Buchloh told the news agency DPA. "Not a single car escaped unscathed on our street."

Tracks damaged, trains delayed

Windrose zog über Duisburg

Buildings, damaged cars and fallen trees clutter a Duisburg street

The effects of the torrential thunderstorms and gale-force winds, were still being felt on Monday. Many commuters in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populace, faced long delays as fire services struggled to clear railway lines and restore overhead power lines. One of the country's busiest rail lines, connecting Frankfurt and Cologne with neighboring Belgium and France, had to do with just one track due to heavy flooding. Delays were expected to continue the whole day as clean up operations continued.

On Lake Constance winds reaching 11 knots on the Beaufort scale brought chaos to the many visitors in small sailing boats who spend the normally hot summer there. In Friedrichshafen 50,000 people attending the traditional Seehasenfest (or "Lake Bunny Festival") were drenched after a riverbank overflowed. One woman attending the festival was seriously injured after being struck by lightning.

Storm ravages Switzerland, Belgium

Germany was not alone in suffering the ravages of nature. In Belgium a man hiding from the storm under a tree was also struck by lightning. And in Switzerland rain and hail caused widespread damage. Four people were injured when a tree crashed onto tents and caravans at Lake Neuenburger. And a train was derailed in Herisau.

Summer in Germany is traditionally the time for long lazy evenings spent in beer gardens or meeting friends for impromptu barbecues in the parks and open spaces in all of the major cities. But this year has been plagued by unseasonably cold weather that has left local swimming pools and ice cream parlors empty.

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