Tornado kills 1, injures 10 in Zeeland community


One person was killed and ten others injured after a funnel cloud passed through Zierikzee on Monday afternoon, the Zeeland safety region said. No information was available on the extent of the victims’ injuries. The tornado also wreaked havoc on several streets in the town of nearly 12,000 people, with up to 20 rental homes damaged to the point of becoming uninhabitable. Emergency services teams were deployed en masse. Weather website Weeronline estimated the tornado to be measured at F1 or F2 on the Fujita scale.

Roofs were blown off several buildings in many streets, including Calandweg. In this street, the roof of a whole row of houses was torn off and landed on the road. There were broken tiles on the floor in several places. Trees were also felled and windows smashed.

“The damage is extensive in several streets of Zierikzee,” the security office said in its first details of the situation. Firefighters and ambulances were dispatched to the Zeeland site. The police also cordoned off the areas. Several emergency teams were dispatched to Zierikzee just after 1 p.m., and the situation was escalated to a Grip 1 emergency shortly thereafter. The alarm was raised to a Grip 2 emergency just after 1:45 p.m. The protocol is used when an incident affects an entire municipality and surrounding region. It calls on all first responders to organize themselves under a single incident commander, with the creation of a regional command post.

Resident Douwe Ouwerkerk was home for lunch when it happened. “It felt like the room was being sucked into the void, which was a pretty strong feeling,” he said. Ouwerkerk then saw all kinds of debris flying around his house in the historic city center. The debris flew for tens of meters, he said. “Tiles, a backyard pool, something that looked like a tent,” he surmised. A photo he sent shows that the parasols on a terrace in the central Havenplein square have been ripped to shreds. Other images show that the Havenpark, a little further, is littered with broken tree branches.

Another resident, Maurice van den Nouweland, noticed the tornado because a neighbor was already in the street filming the phenomenon from a distance. “When I came out, I saw it myself,” he said. “The funnel cloud kept getting bigger. It reminded me of a scene in America, with those storm chasers.”

In the meantime, the inhabitants of the city of Zeeland are assessing their damage. Where possible, they immediately began to carry out repair work. You could see people repairing the roof of a hotel business on the Nieuwe Haven.

There was no record that the country’s national alert system, NL-Alert, had been used before the funnel cloud hit the city. An alert was sent after the incident at around 2.30pm, asking people to avoid the area so rescuers could work without disruption. The area covered most of the city, including its central district, and stretched west from the seafront to the N56, and north near the village of Schuddebeurs. “Various traffic diversions have been put in place at the site due to the incident. Follow these instructions,” the security office said.

It was a somewhat weaker tornado, despite the extensive damage it caused, according to Weeronline. A tornado can be caused by a severe thunderstorm, when the air turns rapidly under a thundercloud, according to the weather organization. It is comparable to a whirlpool several tens to several hundred meters wide. They often don’t last long, but a very powerful tornado can last for hours.

The strength of a tornado is measured on the Fujita scale, which ranges from 0 for the lightest to 5 for the heaviest, and is determined retroactively. Weeronline estimated the strength of the Zierikzee tornado at a maximum of F2, with a speed of between 179 and 218 kilometers per hour. The Zierikzee storm can also be called a waterspout because it originated at sea.

According to Weeronline, the Netherlands records between one and three tornadoes each year. A few particularly violent tornadoes passed through the Netherlands in June 1967. Seven people were killed and dozens injured.

On August 17, 1992, a tornado swept through Ameland. One person died and five people were injured at a campsite near the town of Nes. Most recently, Amsterdam witnessed a tornado on August 9, 2019. The weak tornado also crossed the IJ River and did not cause significant damage.

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