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31,000 calls to storm helpline as winds batter Belgium

20:00 18/01/2018

A special call centre to report storm damage was overwhelmed by 31,000 callers on Thursday, as Storm David brought disruption across Belgium.

A motorist in her 40s died when her car was crushed by a falling tree in Grez-Doiceau, near Wavre, and a 40-year-old woman in Antwerp was seriously injured when she was hit by a chair from a cafe terrace.

Callers faced long waits to reach an operator on 1722, a number specially set up during bad weather to stop people flooding the 112 emergency hotline.

Roads and rail lines were cut off and firefighters were called out to incidents including falling roof tiles and collapsed scaffolding. The strong wind took the roof off a primary school in Gruitrode, Limburg province.

The port of Ghent was shut down due to the inclement weather, with gusts reaching up to 100kph. Brussels parks and woods should reopen on Friday after any damage is inspected.

Photo: A partially collapsed house in Maasmechelen. (c) Pina Misuraca/Belga