Gale force winds yesterday turned the sea into a viscious beast that hammered at shores, flooding promenades, smashing boats and claiming anything that crossed its path.

Throughout the day, the police and civil protection personnel received various reports of weather-related incidents. Boats were damaged, trees uprooted, one man's car was dragged away by the sea in Valletta and another man was injured when a water tank was blown in his direction in St Julians. No one was seriously injured.

The north-east wind had such devastating effects because of the very make-up of the Maltese islands, a spokesman for the Meteorological Office told The Times. With the cliffs dominating the west side of the island, most commercial areas are situated on the east where the shores are lower.

At about 10.45 a.m., the police were informed that a 70-year-old man from Valletta was trapped in a perilous situation at Jews Sally Port (Il-Fossa) in Valletta.

The man was driving his Toyota Vitz in the area when a wave swept over the shore and onto the road and dragged his car towards the rocks. Special Assignment Group (SAG) officers, who were carrying out patrols in the area, helped the man out of the vehicle. He did not suffer any injuries. (Watch video clip on timesofmalta.com.)

In another incident, in St Julians, an Italian national who lives here was walking along Main Street when he was hit by a water tank that blew in his direction, the police said.

The man was taken to hospital where it was determined that he suffered only slight injuries.

A spokesman for the CPD said the areas of Sliema and St Julians were the worst hit areas.

In St Julians, traffic had to be diverted away from Spinola Road onto Regional Road due to the high waters. Boats berthed in the area collided against each other and the sea tore open the doors of boathouses and dragged their contents outdoors, turning the surrounding waters into a cemetery of canoes, small boats and debris. In Sliema, the ravenous sea engulfed the beaches and cast its spray way up walls and onto the Front.

Waves hammered at the paving of The Strand, Sliema dislodging tiles and pushing the debris onto the road where cars made their way through several centimetres of sea water.

In Marsascala, the bay was littered with debris, a kiosk's glass panes were shattered and plastic tables and chairs strewn on the ground.

In Qormi, about four trees were uprooted and some collapsed onto nearby cars, onlookers reported.

Meanwhile, as police officers and the CPD were helping people on land, out in the open seas three crew members of a French-registered yacht were rescued from rough waters through the collaboration of the Armed Forces and an Italian maritime rescue team. AFM's Maritime Squadron also intervened to rein in vessels that broke from their moorings.

Gozo Channel cancelled some trips between Wednesday night and yesterday morning. The schedule returned to normal at 12.15 p.m.

According to the Met Office, the wind started picking up on Wednesday night and escalated to a force eight gale yesterday. It was expected to reach its peak last night and drop to force five and four by this morning and to force three by the evening, the Met Office said.

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