'Stay indoors' warning


'Stay indoors' warning as Storm Helios causes damage, flooding

Gozo ferry trips delayed, procession postponed, food deliveries suspended

Updated 5.45pm

Persistent rain and strong winds pummelled Malta on Thursday with the Civil Protection Department appealing for the public to stay indoors.

Several areas were flooded and a gregale, dubbed Storm Helios, forced the Meteorological Office to issue an orange wind warning.

After more than 24 hours of persistent rain, CPD director Peter Paul Coleiro warned the public to stay away from coastal areas and cautioned people to stay indoors.

"If you can say indoors, please stay indoors," Coleiro said.

"We're seeing the coast take a battering and some areas are suffering damage while others are flooded. Thankfully, so far, nobody has been injured."

Speaking to Times of Malta, Coleiro warned motorists not to take unnecessary risks when driving through water-logged roads.

"Do not persist if you see that the road is flooded because if you try to move forward, chances are your car will stop and this will increase the potential for danger."

Footage shared on social media shows several roads around Malta running rivulets of streaming water as motorists attempted to navigate the poor weather conditions. 

Damage reported

The parapet wall of a row of houses in Għarb, Gozo, collapsed and damaged several parked cars.

Police urged motorists to avoid Mqabba road, Ta' Kandja, Siġġiewi and seek an alternative route after a tree was uprooted and blocked the road.

In Valletta, a popular diving platform off the Mediterranean Conference Centre, was swallowed by the raging waves. 

A spokesperson for the Met Office told Times of Malta on Thursday that the Maltese Islands are set to experience very strong (F7) east to east northeast winds, at times reaching gale force (F8) over the exposed areas.

"The weather will be cloudy and rainy throughout the day, with precipitation becoming moderate to heavy at times. The wind is expected to decrease slightly by this evening, becoming strong east northeast (F6), and then increasing again overnight, reaching gale force (F8)," the spokesperson said.

Localised thunderstorms and hail are also expected on Thursday evening, the spokesperson added, saying that a gale wind warning is also currently in force for the sea area 50 nautical miles from Malta.

Times of Malta photographer Jonathan Borg captured the coastal areas in the North Harbour area taking a severe battering from the rough seas, with crashing waves tumbling over the rocks and onto the promenade in Sliema.

In Valletta, the sea churned tirelessly beneath the gloomy grey skies, with waves crashing into the breakwater.

The Gozo Channel operator said trips, including those scheduled for Friday, might be delayed or even cancelled.

Gozitans employed by the Ministry for Active Ageing who work in Malta are meanwhile being asked to report to work at Dar Padova in Gozo. Minister Jo Etienne Abela urged Gozitan ministry employees to contact their superiors as soon as possible.

Aġenzija Sapport employees were also asked to work from Gozo, Minister for Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli said.

Several shops and offices shuttered their premises as the rain increased. 

Enemalta said its Customer Response Team has been reinforced by 50% additional technical staff to make sure any damages caused to exposed infrastructure, which may occur due to bad weather, are repaired in a timely manner. 

The Met Office said the impact of Storm Helios could be on par with the 2019 gregale where wind gusts reached 133km/h in speed.

"The effects of this storm are expected to be somewhat similar to the storm of 2019 with gale force winds affecting the Maltese Islands, gusts reaching up to 60 knots on Friday, February 10, and high seas on the Northeastern coast. The public is advised to take the necessary precautions," the spokesperson said.

On Friday, gale-force (F8) winds are expected throughout the day, becoming very strong (F7) by the evening, with the weather largely being cloudy with showers. The maximum temperature is expected to reach 13°C while the minimum temperature will drop to 9°C. Real feel temperature during the day is expected to be 9°C.