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Storm Ciara hits Brussels: Trees down, public transport disrupted

20:32 09/02/2020

Firefighters were inundated with more than 700 calls for help in Brussels alone, as Storm Ciara brought winds gusting up to 130kph across Belgium on Sunday night.

The Royal Meteorological Institute's weather warning for strong winds has been extended to 23.00 on Monday evening. It had previously run until 11.00 on Monday morning. A separate weather warning for heavy rain is in place until 20.00 on Monday.

The interior ministry's special storm helpline, 1722, was up and running in an attempt to divert non-life-threatening incidents away from the 112 emergency line.

In Brussels, part of the facade of a building fell to the ground on Boulevard du Midi, above Lemonnier tram station. Miraculously no one was injured, but 20 of the building's occupants have had to be rehoused.

The A12 motorway into Brussels was blocked by a fallen tree near Meise but quickly cleared. A stretch of the pedestrian zone in downtown Brussels, around Rue de l'Evêque, was cordoned off because of fallen scaffolding from the Bpost building.

More than 60 flights were cancelled at Brussels Airport. On public transport, several Stib bus routes had to be diverted due to fallen trees in Watermael-Boitsfort, Uccle, Ganshoren, Auderghem and Laeken.

Tram lines 39 and 44, which link Montgomery with Wezembeek-Oppem and Tervuren, were halted as a precautionary measure because of the tree-lined route. The same measure was taken in Laeken, with buses replacing trams 3 and 7 to the Atomium.

Despite the fierce winds and official advice to stay indoors, organisers of Belgian pop star Angèle's concert at Palais 12 in Heysel decided to go ahead with Sunday night's show. Some 10,000 tickets had been sold. Some concertgoers told RTL News they found the decision "incomprehensible" and "dangerous".

"It's been hard to tell my children that mum has decided they cannot go to the concert," one parent said. Another said it was a choice between "die on the road with your kids or lose your money".

If your home has suffered damage from Storm Ciara, insurers should settle claims within a month, according to Wauthier Robyns, a spokesman for the Belgian insurance trade body Assuralia.

"All household fire insurance includes a component that covers all damage caused by storms to a building and its contents," he said. "There may be differences from one contract to another with regard, for example, to garden equipment or outside play equipment.

"The first thing to do is save what can be saved. Notify your insurer if you need to place a tarpaulin to cover an area where roof tiles have flown away. Take photos and collect witness statements where possible. Your insurance company may send an expert to assess the damage."

Photo: Hatim Kaghat/Belga

Written by The Bulletin