Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands

Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands

Updated Sunday 7.20pm with Enemalta information

Gale-force winds lashed Malta early on Sunday morning, uprooting trees, demolishing walls and damaging power lines, but no injuries were reported, a police spokesman told Times of Malta.

An uprooted tree along the Sliema front. Photo: Harry Briffa/FacebookAn uprooted tree along the Sliema front. Photo: Harry Briffa/Facebook

The winds, which reached gusts of up to 101 km/hour, caused damage to electricity networks and forced road closures across the whole island. Authorities advised people to stay indoors while Malta Public Transport warned of delays on all its routes. 

Civil Protection Department officials were called out to 300 separate sites to clear roads, remove dangerous walls and evacuate people from flooded residences. 

The Meteorological Office forecast the strong gale force gregale wind to remain in force until later on Sunday, in one of the worst storms Malta has seen in recent years.

According to Wind Finder, in the early hours of the morning, Malta experienced gusts of winds that are described as a “high threat to life and property”.

The Maltese Islands Weather site said on Sunday morning that the northeast wind was at its strongest in many years.

The 101 km/h (Force 10, almost Force 11) gusts measured by the site’s weather station in Għarb were an all-time record.

People advised to stay indoors

The northeast wind was expected to continue reaching Force 9/10 until around noon, when it would start decreasing very slowly but steadily to become Force 6/7 by the evening. 

According to Wind Finder, Malta experienced gusts of winds that are described as a 'high threat to life and property'.According to Wind Finder, Malta experienced gusts of winds that are described as a ‘high threat to life and property’.

Authorities advised people to stay indoors unless they needed to travel. 

CPD overwhelmed

The CPD said it had worked with the police to evacuate homes in Sliema and Vittoriosa which had flooded. People evacuated will be offered alternative housing by the government until their homes are fixed, the Home Affairs Ministry said. 

Trees were uprooted in several areas, including on the Rabat road where a large tree completely blocked access. Another tree blocked a road near the airport exit. They were later removed. 

Cleansing Department director Ramon Deguara said most of the fallen trees had been cleared in the morning, but that people could expect further collapses. 

“A number of large trees were partially uprooted and we’re expecting them to fall soon,” he said, pointing out that the incessant wind and rain was not helping.

The Sliema and St Julian’s promenade was a “total disaster”, he said.

“We still have to quantify the damage. The whole operation is going to take days,” Mr Deguara added. 

Among other incidents, a balcony at Portomaso crashed to the ground while a number of old trees at Balluta square were destroyed.

Read: How the storm turned Malta’s roads into an obstacle course

In a bizarre sight, some citizens braved the weather to pick up hundreds of fish which were flung out of the sea onto promenades.

Transport Malta said the storm had knocked out several sets of traffic lights. As of 2pm, traffic lights at the Żabbar junction remained out of order. 

Video: Mark Zammit CordinaVideo: Mark Zammit Cordina
The winds blew strong enough to bend this traffic sign in Dingli.The winds blew strong enough to bend this traffic sign in Dingli.

Political parties change plans

The storms forced the Nationalist and Labour parties to change their Sunday morning plans. 

The closing session of the PN’s general council was postponed to Wednesday evening. A Labour Party activity was cancelled. 

Destruction along the Sliema promenade.Destruction along the Sliema promenade.
A collapsed tree blocks a traffic lane in Pieta'.A collapsed tree blocks a traffic lane in Pieta’.

Power cuts 

Enemalta said that the storm had damaged parts of its distribution network and warned that recovering electricity to affected areas could take longer than usual as weather conditions remained severe.

On Sunday evening, the company said it had fielded more than 1,500 calls from the public and identified 540 faults. Technicians would be working throughout the night to restore electricity to all affected areas, it said. 

The company noted that the cold weather and requests for people to remain indoors had also led to a spike in demand for electricity, which was 20 per cent higher than that on the average Sunday. 

Flights and buses delayed

Several flights scheduled to take off on Sunday morning were delayed, a Malta International Airport representative confirmed. Turkish Airlines flight Istanbul to Malta and Emirates Malta to Larnaca have been cancelled, five flights have been delayed for one hour, and one flight delayed two hours.

Malta Public Transport warned customers to expect delays to all routes. 

“Many roads are closed. This is affecting all bus routes, with buses being diverted by the authorities,” MPT explained. 

At 5pm, the company announced on social media that it was suspending all routes servicing St Julian’s and Sliema, on the CPD’s advice. 

A damaged windscreen. Photo: Frances ChircopA damaged windscreen. Photo: Frances Chircop
Cars damaged by a falling wall in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.Cars damaged by a falling wall in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq.
Rough seas and a windswept Balluta. Photo: Luca CataniaRough seas and a windswept Balluta. Photo: Luca Catania
Wild seas made for an almost unrecognisable promenade at Spinola. Photo: Dominic FenechWild seas made for an almost unrecognisable promenade at Spinola. Photo: Dominic Fenech

Gozo ferry operating, Sicily catamaran cancelled 

Gozo Channel chairman Joe Cordina confirmed the ferry between Malta and Gozo was operating normally, although vessels were berthed on the far side of Ċirkewwa. 

All Virtu Ferries catamaran trips to and from Sicily scheduled for Sunday and Monday were cancelled due to the weather, with additional trips scheduled for Tuesday to compensate.  

Cemeteries closed until Monday

The Environmental Health Directorate within the Superintendence of Public Health said all government cemeteries were being closed until Monday nmorning as a precaution. 

A destroyed tree by Saqqajja Hill in Rabat. Photo: Angela Galea SalamoneA destroyed tree by Saqqajja Hill in Rabat. Photo: Angela Galea Salamone

Boats, balconies wrecked

A power boat came undone at Manoel Island and sank a yacht, sources told Times of Malta. Two other boats in the area came undone and crashed onto rocks in the area. 

A sailor said two pontoons had come loose at the Grand Harbour and were currently without power. Scuba divers were working to reconnect them, and boat owners were not being allowed onto the affected pontoons. 

“Water levels are rising and falling by shocking amounts,” a sailor aboard a docked vessel told Times of Malta. “It’s freezing here, without power, but I’m glad I’m on board”. 

Videos of two separate cranes – one in Sliema, the other in Swieqi – with their steel hoppers swinging dangerously in the high winds prompted concern on social media. 

Pedestrians have been urged to heed the dangers of this crane in Sir Arturo Mercieca Street, Sliema. Video: Peter FalzonPedestrians have been urged to heed the dangers of this crane in Sir Arturo Mercieca Street, Sliema. Video: Peter Falzon
A steel hopper swings on this crane overlooking Pender Gardens.A steel hopper swings on this crane overlooking Pender Gardens.

Farmers suffer damage

The Għaqda Bdiewa Attivi said on its Facebook page that the weather wreaked havoc in farmers’ fields with some estimating damages of more than €50,000 and fearing the worst as the wind blew stronger.

“It’s heart-wrenching to wake up for another day of work to find your enterprise in tatters.

“We commend the bravery of our farmers to continue to fight and express solidarity especially with those whose livelihoods have been seriously threatened by these weather events.”

A video posted on Facebook showed the main road in Xemxija full of small fish that had been dragged to land by the rough seas.

Mellieħa plant damaged, evacuated 

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Malta’s northwest sewage treatment plant, in Mellieħa, was shut down after developing a fault and then evacuated, following concerns about an unstable three-storey wall.

Dr Muscat made reference to an evacuation of people in a Sliema building, but Times of Malta is informed that the operation was called off.

A damaged windscreen. Photo: Frances ChircopA damaged windscreen. Photo: Frances Chircop

Referring to the damages suffered by farmers, the Prime Minister said Malta would be seeking to tap EU funds from a solidarity budget, to give them some form of compensation.

Furthermore, Dr Muscat said that a huge clean-up operation would be launched in the coming days to clear the debris all over the island.

He thanked all those involved in the ongoing operation. Dr Muscat spoke also on Gozo, saying such circumstances showed the necessity of having a permanent link.

‘Millions’ in damages – Delia

Opposition leader Adrian Delia said he had been contacted by farmers who claimed to have suffered “millions” in damages from the storm.

Farmers from the Mġarr community, he said, who were in tears after having their livelihoods destroyed.

Continuing on the weather story, Dr Delia said many people did not even have a roof over their heads to shelter from the storm.

A pole smashed right through this car.A pole smashed right through this car.

Mifsud Bonnici funeral put off

The funeral of former chief justice Giuseppe Mifsud Bonnici was also put off to Tuesday, relatives confirmed to Times of Malta. Judge Mifsud Bonnici passed away on Friday.

Damaged stadium, restaurant

Hibs Stadium incurred significant damage, with trees toppling hoarding and stone boundary walls falling over. 

A clip uploaded on social media shows the moment waves destroyed the Buddhamann Restaurant in St Julian’s.

destruction across malta as gale force winds batter islands 14 - Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands
Hibs Stadium was left the worse for wear.Hibs Stadium was left the worse for wear.
Walls toppled over at Hibs Stadium.Walls toppled over at Hibs Stadium.
Ballutta Bay lashed by winds and high waves.Ballutta Bay lashed by winds and high waves.

Stormy Saturday

The bad weather started on Saturday afternoon with isolated showers developing into hail storms and the odd thundery spell

Football matches on Saturday evening were cancelled as was the Malta marathon which was due to be held on Sunday morning. The Nadur carnival planned for Sunday has been postponed to Thursday.

Large marquees used to house carnival floats to be used in carnival celebrations blew over.

Tents set up on the University of Malta’s Tal-Qroqq campus for an upcoming careers fair were also badly damaged, The Yuppie reported on Sunday evening. 

Carnival floats built for next week's celebrations took a battering.Carnival floats built for next week’s celebrations took a battering.
destruction across malta as gale force winds batter islands 19 - Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands
A toppled container. Photo: Daniele Braggioli/FacebookA toppled container. Photo: Daniele Braggioli/Facebook
Damage in Qawra.Damage in Qawra.
Steel mesh came crashing down onto cars parked in a Sliema road. Photo: Hilary Galea LauriSteel mesh came crashing down onto cars parked in a Sliema road. Photo: Hilary Galea Lauri
A reader sent in a picture of his neighbour's membrane which came apart and landed in his garden.A reader sent in a picture of his neighbour’s membrane which came apart and landed in his garden.
The gregale hitting Valletta and Sliema. Photo: James Vella ClarkThe gregale hitting Valletta and Sliema. Photo: James Vella Clark
GħargħurGħargħur

A police spokesman said reports of damage came from across the islands.

A large tree near the Addolorata Cemetery completely blocked the road as did another near Hompesh Road in Żabbar.

A flight from Istanbul to Malta was cancelled because of the weather and some flights were also delayed landing. Trees were also uprooted in the vicinity of the runway. 

destruction across malta as gale force winds batter islands 26 - Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands
Photo: @Keti.kate/InstagramPhoto: @Keti.kate/Instagram

On Friday evening, the Met. Office issued a gregale advisory notice to mariners, warning them of very rough seas tonight and on Sunday as a low pressure zone over the Ionian sea extends over the Maltese islands.

The strong winds were accompanied by a drop in temperature, with the thermometer showing a temperature of 2 degrees Celsius in some areas, colder than most European countries at the moment. 

destruction across malta as gale force winds batter islands 28 - Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands

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Footage shot at Baħar ic-Cagħaq on Saturday night. Video: Clive CamilleriFootage shot at Baħar ic-Cagħaq on Saturday night. Video: Clive Camilleri
Damaged street furniture in Għargħur. Photo: Matthew MirabelliDamaged street furniture in Għargħur. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli
Damage in Rabat. Picture: Shaun GrechDamage in Rabat. Picture: Shaun Grech
A tree blocking the road next to the bus stop in Triq Ta' l-Ibrag corner. Photo: Malcolm NaudiA tree blocking the road next to the bus stop in Triq Ta’ l-Ibrag corner. Photo: Malcolm Naudi
destruction across malta as gale force winds batter islands 33 - Destruction across Malta as gale-force winds batter islands
Video: Jonathan MohnaniVideo: Jonathan Mohnani
Video: Pere LopesVideo: Pere Lopes
Ċirkewwa. Photo: Owen Sant’AngeloĊirkewwa. Photo: Owen Sant’Angelo
Three trees Dingli Street, Sliema. Photo: Rowena Pullicino - FacebookThree trees Dingli Street, Sliema. Photo: Rowena Pullicino – Facebook
Sliema Aquatic Sports Club. Photo: Daniela Said, FacebookSliema Aquatic Sports Club. Photo: Daniela Said, Facebook
San Giljan Kiosk. Photo: Mr Borda, FacebookSan Giljan Kiosk. Photo: Mr Borda, Facebook
Bonnett blown away, Windsor Terrace, Sliema. Photo: Karen Heneghan - FacebookBonnett blown away, Windsor Terrace, Sliema. Photo: Karen Heneghan – Facebook
The Point. Photo: Sylvana Psaila - FacebookThe Point. Photo: Sylvana Psaila – Facebook
Balluta. Photo: Luisa Busuetta - FacebookBalluta. Photo: Luisa Busuetta – Facebook
A water tank blew off a roof in St Agatha Str, Sliema. Photo: M SpiteriA water tank blew off a roof in St Agatha Str, Sliema. Photo: M Spiteri
Tanks damaged by a falling wall in Tower Road, Sliema. Photo: Thomas Agius VadalaTanks damaged by a falling wall in Tower Road, Sliema. Photo: Thomas Agius Vadala
Video: Attila BurisVideo: Attila Buris
Photo: Attila BurisPhoto: Attila Buris
Video: Bertine Madelen SjoeholmVideo: Bertine Madelen Sjoeholm

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