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Woman killed and two injured as festive market Christmas tree falls over in Storm Pia

Tree top at festive market in Oudenaarde, Belgium toppled over in high winds

Jabed Ahmed
Friday 22 December 2023 10:53 GMT
Storm Pia hit western Belgium on Thursday as weather service issued a yellow code warning
Storm Pia hit western Belgium on Thursday as weather service issued a yellow code warning (Koen Godderis)

A 63-year-old woman has died and two others have been injured after a huge Christmas tree fell over during Storm Pia.

Security camera footage shows a brightly-lit, 65ft high tree slowly leaning over before collapsing next to a Christmas market in the Belgian city of Oudenaarde. The tragedy unfolded in the historic town square around 7pm on Thursday night.

Storm Pia, which led to travel chaos in the UK as flights and trains were cancelled due to 80mph winds, hit western Belgium on Thursday.

The 65ft Christmas tree collapsed next to a Christmas market in the historic town square (Koen Godderis)

The Christmas tree has now been removed from the festive market as local police open an investigation into the circumstances of the incident.

There had already been problems with the stability of the Christmas tree, which was crooked and had to be fixed by authorities, according to local Belgian media.

Oudenaarde Mayor Marnic De Meulemeester told VRT news: “We have decided to close the Christmas market and the winter village completely, out of respect for the family.

“The tree was firm, but unexpectedly very heavy rain and a local gust of wind with wind force 6 arose. As a result, the tree was overthrown near a Christmas market where a lot of people were present.”

Authorities clean up the site of the incident (vrtNews)

An eyewitness told local media the city’s technical services were called ten minutes before the tree fell down, after it was seen swaying in the wind.

“The tree came down. We had seen that there were three people under the tree. Twenty people helped lift up the tree to save the people from under it,” the eyewitness added.

A spokesman for the Oost-Vlaanderen province prosecutor said the victim was 63-year old woman from Oudenaarde. Two women from the same town were lightly injured in the incident.

“The investigation will focus on whether the tree had been properly secured and will also look at the impact of the weather,” he said.

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