Storm Axel brought foul weather to Germany early yesterday, and the worst was yet to come, warned government agencies.
Hamburg's historic fish market was flooded with knee-deep waters after a high tide 2m above the usual level washed in from the harbour.
Cars and buses had to make their way on the water front through the high tide, according to the Hamburger Morgenpost.
Germany's federal maritime agency has warned that the country could see its worst floods in a decade on the Baltic Sea coast as the storm progresses.
Hurricane-force winds of up to 75kmh have been recorded on the Brocken, the highest mountain in central Germany, according to the German Weather Service.
$253b Cost of damage worldwide caused by natural disasters, including storms and earthquakes, last year.
34% of losses were due to floods.
The storm also brought heavy snowfall, which created high drifts, in the highlands of central Germany and in the Bavarian forest.
German reinsurance giant Munich Re said yesterday that natural disasters including storms and earthquakes caused US$175 billion ($253 billion) of damage worldwide last year, the highest level since 2012, reported Agence France- Presse.
Overall, floods accounted for 34 per cent of losses - an "exceptional" figure compared with the average of 21 per cent in the last 10 years, said the company.
A series of storms across Europe in late May and early June last year brought flood damage costing a total of US$6 billion, with floods hitting Germany especially badly as well as the French capital Paris.