A tornado struck between Sint-Katelijne-Waver and Putte, Belgium, on a Wednesday afternoon, severely impacting at least two growers. Paulanco, one of the affected locations, suffered significant damage, with one grower losing 40 years of work in just a minute, as reported over the phone.
“At 4:33 PM, the tornado hit, causing extensive damage. One greenhouse is completely toppled, shifted two meters, and the other greenhouse has shattered glass with a collapsed structure. Various sections are missing glass, including the back,” recounted Agnes, the wife of grower Paul Houtmeyers, conveying the distress through a phone call. Fortunately, no injuries were reported at the company. “I had left the greenhouse just ten minutes before. There was no staff working. The tomato plants were supposed to arrive today,” she mentioned on Thursday.
Tornado Shortly before 5:00 PM, the tornado swept through the area, ripping off roofs and scattering debris. Over a stretch of about 4 kilometers, the roofs of many homes were torn off, according to the municipality of Sint-Katelijne-Waver. Around forty homes were impacted, with two rendered uninhabitable, and the residents are being accommodated by family. Paulanco appears to be the most affected horticultural company on Thursday morning. Additionally, a smaller greenhouse with half a hectare of cold glass has also suffered significant damage.
While one grower faces the aftermath, another is relieved. “It has been very localized,” stated a colleague from the area. “One greenhouse is seriously damaged, but 500 meters away, another greenhouse has no broken glass.”
Glass continues to fall from the damaged premises, as reported when insurance company Hagelunie visited the grower on Thursday afternoon. Even at that time, additional glass was still falling, and notably, all of the grower’s spare glass had also been shattered.
A drone had already surveyed the company, and contacts were made with greenhouse builders. However, repair work was deemed unsafe on Thursday due to the ongoing danger, and the cleanup of the shattered greenhouses had not yet commenced, as indicated in the information accompanying the photos. “We are currently restricted and unable to take any action. Glass is still falling.” The expectation by the end of Thursday is that a complete demolition may be necessary.
In a video featured in Flemish media, including Het Nieuwsblad, grower Paul Houtmeyers assesses the damage in the greenhouse after the tornado. When asked about the future, given the loss of forty years of work, he responds positively, saying, “Yes, actually. The drive is still there.”
In an interview with the Flemish trade magazine Boer & Tuinder, Paul acknowledges the challenges but expresses gratitude for the support received from colleagues. A greenhouse builder is scheduled to install an emergency facade on Friday to prevent freezing temperatures from damaging the heating system.
The article details the extent of the damage, with 7,000 square meters collapsing in the older 9,600 square meter greenhouse and 4,000 square meters destroyed in the newer 12,600 square meter greenhouse, where Paul grows beef and vine tomatoes.
Paul is also aware of the damage suffered by a colleague, Guido Verelst, whose greenhouse was similarly destroyed in the tornado.