Germany begins huge clear-up after Storm Frederike

At least eight people dead and estimated €500m damage to infrastructure

Germany has begun a massive clear-up operation after a storm on Thursday killed at least eight people, damaged more than 200 train lines and caused an estimated€500 million worth of damage.

Storm Frederike, the worst in almost a decade with winds of up to 200km/h, overturned lorries, ripped up trees, left thousands of train commuters stranded and more than 100,000 people without electricity around the country.

Some airports were closed, along with motorways and bridges in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

A rail spokesman said company employees were inspecting routes by helicopter to identify routes requiring crews to clear branches and other debris.


“The trees fell like matches,” said a rail spokesperson in the central Harz region.

In the western city of Duisburg, Elisabeth Hoffmann watched the wind take the roof off a neighbouring school. "I thought it was an earthquake . . . I've never experienced anything like that in my life," she told WDR television.

The storm moved in westward from the Netherlands where, on Thursday, police said three people were killed by falling trees or debris in separate incidents. On Friday, the weakened storm moved off eastwards to Poland.

Germany’s last bad storm was Kyril in 2007, which left a €3 billion trail of destruction. On Friday, engineers and roofers fanned out across the country to inspect damage to buildings, bracing themselves for repair works likely to take weeks.

“This all has to go, it won’t hold much longer,” said roofer Bastian Müller to WDR television, removing shattered tiles from a roof in Cologne.

On Friday, it emerged that a woman in Cologne give birth in her car. The woman was in labour and on her way to the hospital on Thursday evening when she and her partner were trapped by storm road-blocks.

A fire brigade employee assisted them by phone until baby Anton was born. Only after the birth did an ambulance and doctor reach the couple.

The fire brigade employee who assisted them through the birth showed up and was allowed to cut the umbilical cord.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin