Two killed, high damages as storm hits Vienna, Austria

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

On what was the hottest start of the summer ever since measurements have been recorded in Vienna, two people were killed, several injured and a not yet estimated amount of property damaged as a strong storm hit the capital of Austria.

Weather conditions

Vienna, as all of Austria and central Europe, has experienced an unusual streak of hot days in the last week, culminating in 36.2 Celsius in Langenlebarn in Lower Austria today. The temperature is expected to fall in the coming days, as the cold front producing the storm reached Austria. It was windy all day in Vienna, but around 16:30 (4:30 pm) local time what was only wind became a full-blown storm. It produced wind speeds between 113 and 123 kilometers per hour in Vienna and was accompanied by rain. By 18:00 (6 pm) local time, wind speeds has normalized again and the rain had stopped.


Persons killed and injured

Two people were killed during the storm. One, a crane operator, died when his crane toppled into the main fire station of Vienna in the historic first district. 60 firemen were required to secure the site. A 60-year old woman was struck and killed by a falling tree in Donaustadt, Vienna's twenty-second district. A 40-year old man was severely injured in this incident, emergency services disclosed.

Damage to property

Many trees were cut down by the strong winds, creating obstacles for public and individual traffic on the streets. Parkgoers fled the grounds as branches crashed on the ground. Also damaged was the site of the Donauinselfest, a free festival traditionally organized by the Social Democratic Party of Vienna in June. This year, the festival takes place on the coming weekend, from the 22nd to the 24th. The organizers dismissed the possibility of canceling the whole event. However, Josi Urban, a member of the organizing team, was quoted saying "this does not look good" and stated that some areas of the huge festival site might have to be closed.

Problems in public services

Vienna is standing still.

—Stefan Sauer, spokesman for ARBÖ

Almost all lines of the Wiener Linien, the public transport company of Vienna, experienced problems due to trees, bricks and other things blocking the streets and tram lines. Commuters relying on the ÖBB, the Austrian Public Rail Service, had to cope with delays of one hour and more. Services are currently being restored to their regular level. This is not made easier by the many people switching to cars in the face of adverse weather. Stefan Sauer, spokesman for ARBÖ, a vehicle and accident emergency organization, said: "Vienna is standing still." Several blocks in different districts were cut off electric power as trees and other objects cut power lines.

Other effects

The storm was felt in Vienna, most of Lower Austria and some parts of Upper Austria and Burgenland. Many streets became impassable either due to excess water or obstructions caused by the wind. A concert by singer Barbara Streisand in front of the historic Schönbrunn Palace had to be postponed to Friday, June 22. It was initially feared the concert would have to be cancelled altogether. After the damage was assessed and Streisand expressed her desire to sing in Vienna, the organizers determined it was safe to hold the concert on Friday. This will be the first concert ever by Streisand in Austria. A slide show of photographs from Vienna after the storm can be viewed at