The whirlwind, which occurred at the start of the tourist season in this seaside town, left a trail of destruction in its wake, blowing the roofs of houses and toppling trees on cars, noted a journalist from the AFP.
A huge piece of black roofing was torn from the top of a block of four terraced houses and thrown into a nearby street, he still saw.
A mechanical shovel was removing debris from the roadway near where a car was lying partially crushed by a tree.
“The damage is considerable in several streets of Zierikzee. In addition to the tiles and fallen trees, the roofs of four houses have been torn off”, for their part announced the authorities of the province of Zeeland, in the south-west of the country. .
“In total, in addition to the death, seven people were injured. One of them was taken to hospital by ambulance, the others were treated on the spot,” they added.
The person who died was a tourist hit in the head by a tile in the port area of the city, local newspaper Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant said.
– “The whirlwind kept getting bigger” –
In particular, tiles were torn by the wind from the roof of a church and trampolines flew into the air, reported public television NOS, according to which the facade of a house collapsed.
Footage on social media showed debris being swept away by a swirling column of air and a large white funnel of clouds against a dark sky as people stopped their cars or left their restaurant tables to watch the spectacle.
“The whirlwind kept getting bigger. It reminded me of American movies, with these storm chasers,” said Zierikzee resident Maurice van den Nouweland, quoted by the Dutch press agency ANP.
“It was as if the room was sucked in,” said another, Douwe Ouwerkerk, who was at home when the tornado hit.
He said he saw “tiles, a garden pool, something that looked like a tent” lifted from the ground.
– A shelter for the victims –
No less than 20 rental units have been made temporarily uninhabitable and the authorities have set up a shelter for the victims, according to a local association.
One of those injured was a worker who was renovating one of these accommodations, she added.
The emergency services called on the population not to approach the area so as not to complicate the work of the police and firefighters and because of the tiles and branches which could fall.
Zierikzee sits on one of the bridged islands that make up the province of Zeeland and has a historic harbor and the 15th century “Grosse Tour” among its sights.
The Netherlands, whose flat territory is just above sea level, which makes it very vulnerable to extreme climatic events, experiences several tornadoes each year, but the previous one to have caused deaths there dates back to 1992, according to the Dutch meteorological agency KNMI, the others dating from 1967, 1972 and 1981.
“Violent whirlwinds, also called tornadoes, are rare in our country,” KNMI noted on its website.
“The area in which they occur is usually no larger than a narrow track two to several tens of kilometers long and a few hundred meters wide,” said the agency.