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Netherlands: Rare storm brings death, traffic chaos

July 5, 2023

A violent summer storm swept across the Netherlands, severely affecting air and train traffic. At least one person died in the town of Haarlem.

Trees fell on houses in Haarlem, North Holland
Residents of North Holland were asked to stay homeImage: REMKO DE WAAL/ANP/IMAGO

At least one person died in the Dutch town of Haarlem during a rare, heavy summer storm on Wednesday. A woman was hit by a falling tree, news agency Nu.nl reported citing local police.

Roaring winds at speeds of up to 146 kilometers per hour (90 mph) swept across the Netherlands as Storm Poly hit the North Sea coast, downing trees and prompting Dutch authorities to warn people to stay home.

The government sent out a mobile phone alert calling on people to stay indoors in North Holland province, which includes Amsterdam, and to only call overstretched emergency services in "life-threatening" situations.

Poly paralyzes transport

The strongest summer storm on record severely affected transport. More than 300 flights were canceled at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, which described the situation as "dangerous ... due to branches on the road, strong gusts of wind and heavy rain."

Train traffic to the hub was suspended. Air traffic would be "very limited" between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (between 0700 and 1400 GMT), the airport said.

Travelers at Amsterdam Central Station amid heavy storms
Travelers at Amsterdam train station are waiting, as the NS train operator has halted train traffic throughout the north of the Netherlands due to storm PolyImage: Evert Elzinga/ANP/IMAGO

Meanwhile, train operators NS and Arriva halted all services in the country's north, and a highway north of Amsterdam was closed due to falling trees.

Transport authorities warned against driving on the motorways, where there were already reports of high winds pushing trucks over and trees falling onto lanes.

Strongest summer storm on record

Winds of force 11, the second highest on the scale, were measured in the northern port of IJmuiden making Poly the "first very severe summer storm ever measured" in the country, Dutch weather service Weerplaza said.

A gust of 146 kmh measured in IJmuiden was also the strongest ever recorded in the summer in the Netherlands, where the storm season is normally from October to April, it said.

With around a third of the country lying below sea level, the Netherlands is particularly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions and the effects of climate change. A North Sea storm on the night of January 31 to February 1, 1953 killed more than 1,836 people in the Netherlands.

dh/wd (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

Flood protection in the Netherlands