Torrential rains lash eastern Austria

A series of storms have caused severe damage and required over 250 firefighting operations late on Sunday afternoon and evening in Styria and Burgenland.

Torrential rains lash eastern Austria
Photo: APA

Heavy rain and strong winds required around 250 firefighting operations in southern and eastern Styria and southern Burgenland over the weekend. 

Emergency services were called to pump out basements and clear the streets of branches and downed trees.

The Styrian Chamber of Agriculture estimated damage amounting to two million euros.

"There was a distinct storm path in the regions of Gleisdorf, Pischeldorf over Kaindorf and up to Hartberg," said Thomas Meier, spokesman for the State Fire Service Association.

In places, up to 66 litres per square metre were measured within a short time, according to the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG.)

In the district of Hartberg – Fürstenfeld alone, over 400 firefighters were deployed.

In Leitersdorf, near Bad Waltersdorf, a renovated farm house threatened to collapse in the early morning hours.

After the outer wall had been reduced in size by about half a metre, the floor of a bedroom collapsed. Fortunately, none of the nine residents were threatened. The fire department stabilized the building with liquid concrete pumped into the basement.

According to the Chamber of Agriculture, there was "enormous damage" to agricultural crops in Ilz, Untersafen, Saifen, Feistritzwerke and Lafnitztal. Mostly affected were crops of corn, squash, vegetables such as Chinese cabbage and tree nurseries.

Damage caused by flooding is thought to amount to at least 1.5 million euros. It is also estimated there was hail damage amounting to 300,000 euros, as well as damage due to erosion and subsidence.

In Graz, 57 litres of rain per square metre were measured within 24 hours. Because of the increased water level of the river Mur, the waterfront area in the suburb of Wetzelsdorf was closed.

Nearly 60 fire-fighting operations were reported in Burgenland. Mostly these were dealing with fallen trees and flooded cellars and roads. The suburb of Oberwart and especially the region of Pinkafeld were particularly affected.

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Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

Europe's blistering summer may not be over yet, but 2022 is already breaking records, with nearly 660,000 hectares ravaged since January, according to the EU's satellite monitoring service.

Europe facing record year for wildfire destruction: EU

And while countries on the Mediterranean have normally been the main seats of fires in Europe, this year, other countries are also suffering heavily.

Fires this year have forced people to flee their homes, destroyed buildings and burned forests in EU countries, including Austria, Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Some 659,541 hectares (1.6 million acres) have been destroyed so far, data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) showed, setting a record at this point in the year since data collection began in 2006.

Europe has suffered a series of heatwaves, forest fires and historic drought that experts say are being driven by human-induced climate change.

They warn more frequent and longer heatwaves are on the way.

The worst-affected country has been Spain, where fire has destroyed 244,924 hectares, according to EFFIS data.

The EFFIS uses satellite data from the EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How the climate crisis is hitting Europe hard

The data comes after CAMS said Friday that 2022 was a record year for wildfire activity in southwestern Europe and warned that a large proportion of western Europe was now in “extreme fire danger”.

“2022 is already a record year, just below 2017,” EFFIS coordinator Jesus San-Miguel said. In 2017, 420,913 hectares had burned by August 13, rising to 988,087 hectares by the end of the year.

“The situation in terms of drought and extremely high temperatures has affected all of Europe this year and the overall situation in the region is worrying, while we are still in the middle of the fire season,” he said.

Since 2010, there had been a trend towards more fires in central and northern Europe, with fires in countries that “normally do not experience fires in their territory”, he added.

“The overall fire season in the EU is really driven mainly by countries in the Mediterranean region, except in years like this one, in which fires also happen in central and northern regions,” he added.