A hailstorm SOS International will never forget

A few hours of bad weather in Italy meant three weeks of extraordinary efforts for SOS International. Now that the storm has passed, the process will be evaluated so that lessons can be learnt for future extreme weather events.

It began on a late Monday evening in July. The summer peak season was in full swing, and SOS International’s alarm centre for international roadside assistance was busy as usual.

Suddenly, however, it was more than just busy, the phones were ringing non-stop and the queue was growing. A storm with hail the size of golf and tennis balls had hit northern Italy and wreaked havoc on Lake Garda, one of the major Danish self-drive destinations.

Three weeks after that Monday night at the end of July, SOS International has done the maths. “Operation Hailstorm” is over after, among other things, the repatriation of 731 vehicles, coach transport for around 1,200 people, and many hours of phone calls with stressed Danes and Swedes stranded in Italy with damaged vehicles.

“It was a violent event, and it also hit hard internally, especially because it happened on top of a peak season. At first it was very difficult to get an overview of the cases and literally find the cars, but in cooperation with our insurance customers we have handled it well. When we sent the last cars off from Italy to Denmark just three weeks after the storm itself, we could see that there were still many German and Dutch cars left in the area”, says Jörg van den Berk, Director of Mobility Division, SOS International.

Collaboration was key
Now that both holidaymakers and vehicles have returned from Italy, one word characterises the intense work: Collaboration. Both with insurance companies and the other partners that SOS International entered with during the event to be able to transport people and vehicles home quickly and safely.

“We have witnessed an absolutely incredible willingness to cooperate - both externally and internally. The cooperation and dialogue with the insurance companies, the alliance with Vikingbus, with Danske Speditører, and not least our Danish partner SOS Dansk Autohjælp, who drove assistance vehicles to the "scene of the crime", says Jörg van den Berk.

The employees from SOS Dansk Autohjælp, who went to Italy, took care of emergency repairs, locating and transporting cars to the collection points. In Denmark, there were colleagues who interrupted their holidays to come to work and help out, and Mobility also received good help from the colleagues in Travelcare.

“With climate change, we must expect more of these kinds of extreme weather events, so we must review our experiences, both internally and with the insurance companies, in order to be well prepared for the next time”, says Jörg van den Berk.

Operation Hailstorm in figures:

  • 731 vehicles transported to Denmark
  • 250 vehicles received emergency repairs on-site and drove themselves home
  • 1,200 people were transported home in coaches
  • In addition, a number have received assistance with travelling home by plane, train or rental car
  • More than 11,000 phone calls in just a few days
  • 4 assistance vehicles and crew from SOS Dansk Autohjælp in Italy to coordinate, recover, register damage and perform emergency repairs

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Are you travelling and in need of acute assistance?

Contact SOS International's alarm centre on +45 7010 5050.

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