10 Motorists Killed In 50-Car Pile-Up On German Autobahn – Blinded By Freak Sandstorm

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The scene of the accident occurring earlier today looks as grisly as a war zone.

Motorists were blinded by a sandstorm on the A19 motorway near the German coastal port city of Rostock. In all, almost 50 cars were involved in the massive pile up, with 10 dead and almost 100 injured. 17 cars and three trucks caught fire.

The online Der Spiegel has a spectacular video here that gives you a good idea of the zero-visibility conditions drivers had to contend with – with little warning – causing them a nightmare. The online Bild daily also has a photo gallery here.

This is what a sandstorm can look like. This one in Iraq, from Wikipedia (Photo credit: US Marine Corps)

Though speed limits are being imposed increasingly on Germany’s famous autobahns, there are still many sections that have no speed limit. Cars traveling 120 miles per hour and more are not uncommon.

At the scene of this accident, that particular section of autobahn also had no speed limit, and high-speed drivers were caught by off guard as the sudden sandstorm cut visibility across the motorway to almost zero with little warning, causing drivers traveling in both directions to slam on the brakes and resulting in the deadly pile-up. Bild newspaper reports:

Cars crashed into other cars with such force that some were found 50 meters off the autobahn in a field. At this location on the autobahn there is no speed limit. But you could see the sand coming, it should have been possible to brake’, said truck drive [Ralf] Schulz.

Der Spiegel says “an unusual weather phenomena is suspected to have triggered the chain of crashes”, saying that hurricane force winds whipped up the sand and formed tornado like conditions. But when one views the film footage, one sees that the dust cloud is no more than a few meters above the ground.

Actually, as reader Ron de Haan points out, this is a dust storm from plowed agricultural fields in the area. The German press though are calling it a sandstorm.

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18 responses to “10 Motorists Killed In 50-Car Pile-Up On German Autobahn – Blinded By Freak Sandstorm”

  1. M White

    No where else to put it

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-13002706

    “Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer sea ice will probably be gone in this decade.”

  2. R. de Haan

    Here is a sat image from sand cloud of the coast of Portugal.
    Fine dust is a huge item in the EU but dust from the Shara is over 6o% of the dust collected in the measurement systems.
    The other dust contains particles from diesel engines, factories, power stations, fires, and traffic , tire and break wear. This is just another insane EU control system aimed at demonizing our civilization and fossil fuel use at extreme costs and penalties already closing down entire city centers for cars.

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=49987

  3. R. de Haan

    In the case of the Rostock accident it was a strong wind blowing dust from an agricultural field

  4. DirkH
  5. Bernd Felsche

    So many bad drivers… As the truck-driver said:
    “Dann hat der erste wohl abgebremst und mehrere Autos sind hinten rauf.”

    The first probably braked (encountering limited visibility) and several cars piled up behind.

    Tailgating is the problem. As is lack of attention. Nowhere near as bad as in e.g. Australia, but still pervasive.

    The truckie was able to bring his vehicle to a safe stop.

    It’ll be blamed on the lack of a speed limit, but driving in Australia, where there are speed limits, the passengers at the wheel have found new distractions to combat the boredom and ludcrous speed limits in some (many) places. Perhaps it’s not boredom as such; simply not a conscious approach to driving; rather an apathy in enduring an unpleasant chore.

  6. Edward

    Very sad PG, I dislike motorway driving in the best of weather.

    I do not know the area but I would posit that the area boasts vast fields devoted to monoculture and agri-industrial scale farming.

    I’ll bet the weather has been fairly dry recently too, then throw in a squally but powerful wind and you get localised dust storms. Fine grained sands carried in suspension by the wind.
    Lying on a beach in summer can be a pain if the wind is whipping up the fine silica’s off the surface of the dry beach sand – it is a similar process going on here, except on a far bigger scale.

    Reminiscent of America in the 1930s – who had lots in the ‘dust bowl’ region – that was down to over-farming, lack of rotation and bad land management…sound familiar?

  7. M White
    1. DirkH

      Yes. We will pay 18.76 Eurocent for each kWh, i guess. (The area used to be Russian military training ground so it counts as chemically poisoned (“vorbelastet”); 18.76 cent is the tariff for large scale solar in this case.)

      A real bargain. A few years we would have paid 45 cent. One could nearly call it affordable.
      http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz

      1. DirkH

        Oh, and not the German tax payer but the German electricity rate payer, to be pedantic.

  8. Brian G Valentine

    I spent about 2 years in Iraq, in the war. The sand storms are the worst weather on Earth because the dust is so fine. It stays in the air for about a week before settling.

    The locals in Baghdad like sand storms, they believe they are healthy for the respiratory system. They might be right.

  9. R. de Haan

    Especially with when the dust is mixed with a high dose of depleted uranium used create armor piercing amo. Very healthy.

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