DEVASTATING FORCE 9 WINDS – 10th March 2012

A British tourist, who witnesses said was on the rocks admiring the fury of the waves in Qawra, died on Saturday morning after he was swept into the sea. The death of the 69-year-old man was the most tragic incident caused by Force 9 easterly to northeasterly winds from a Mediterranean cyclone that whipped up a storm and left a trail of damage in its path – from boats spat out on roads, to twisted electricity poles, flying photovoltaic panels, uprooted trees, destroyed property and collapsed walls.

The Civil Civil Protection Department was overwhelmed with reports of around 80 incidents over the night, ranging from walls and billboards collapsing onto cars to solar panels carried away by strong winds.

The Ta’ Qali stadium enclosure top, the road at Rinella Bay, the crucifix on top of Birkirkara’s St Helen Basilica and overhead power lines in places like Fawwara, Marsalforn and Xewkija were among the more prominent casualties. There were several reports of damaged property across the islands, including a house on the outskirts of Xagħra and boundary walls in Paceville, Mellieħa, Msida, and on the road from Victoria to Nadur. Stones from damaged walls and balconies dented cars but nobody was injured.

At one point, a number of roads were temporarily blocked when large branches fell on the roads, including sections of the Birkirkara bypass, Aldo Moro Road in Marsa and Ċensu Busuttil in Iklin. In Gżira, a number of moored boats were damaged when they were spat out onto the shore. Some overnight flights also had to be diverted to Catania while the Gozo ferry service was interrupted up to 10 am.

The storm peaked early on the 10th March, when it was combined with driving rain. However, the wind eventually turned south-easterly, dying down for some time in the morning before picking up again in the afternoon. The wind from the southeast also brought with it a desert-sand shower from Libya. Damage to power lines caused power cuts in parts of Mellieħa, Mġarr, Rabat, Marsa and Marsaxlokk.

Highest wind gusts were at Mellieha 122.1km/h, Msida 91.0km/h, Zejtun 90.7km/h, Nadur 88.8km/h, Zebbug (Malta) 87.0km/h, Attard 87.0km/h, Rabat 79.5km/h, Qormi 74.0km/h, Naxxar 72.4km/h, Balzan 70.8km/h. Highest 24-hour rainfall totals from noon on the 9th March till noon on the 10th March: Zebbug Gozo 113.6mm, Nadur 95.6mm, Marsalforn 82.8mm, Xaghra 87.2mm, Victoria 52.8mm, Gharb 49.6mm & Sannat 34.6mm

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PHOTOS TAKEN BY IVAN BARTOLO, IAN PACE, ANDREW GAUCI ATTARD, JOSETTE FARRUGIA, ANNE MARIE PACE CARABEZ, MATT NEWKY JACKSON