Czech Republic: A tornado kills at least five and injures dozens

At least five people have been killed and dozens injured in a tornado accompanied by a hailstone that devastated several villages and towns in southeastern Bohemia on Thursday night, rescue services reported on Friday.

“Hell is on earth,” regional governor Jan Grolich said after visiting the affected area. According to him, rescuers searched “99%” of the affected villages and do not expect to find new bodies.

A local police spokesman confirmed the deaths of five people, as well as the hospitalization of 63 wounded, ten of whom were seriously injured. New calls from injured people continue to arrive, said Hedvika Kropackova, a spokeswoman for local emergency services.

The army has been deployed to help with the search, and rescuers from neighboring Austria and Slovakia are helping with the operations.

The tornado hit several towns and villages, including Hodonin, on the border with Slovakia with a tennis ball-sized hailstorm. In this city, a retirement home as well as a local zoo were destroyed.

“We are moving the residents of the nursing home to a hotel in the city,” Hodonin officials said on Facebook.

The region also suffered major power outages, with 78,000 homes and businesses without electricity on Friday morning. Traffic had to be interrupted by the main motorway connecting Prague to Bratislava.

In this wine region, the vineyards have suffered great damage. The castle in the town of Valtice, which is part of the cultural landscape of Lednica-Valtice, which is under the protection of UNESCO, was also affected.

Videos circulating on social media show destroyed buildings, torn down trees, as well as fires.

– More than a thousand houses affected –

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said more than 1,000 homes were affected by the storm.

Marek Babisz, deputy mayor of the tornado-hit village of Hrusky, told AFP that half of his village had been razed to the ground.

Experts are now inspecting the most endangered part of the village “to determine which houses will be demolished and which can be saved,” he said.

Hrusky’s Church lost its bell tower and roof in a tornado.

Cleaning is underway in the least affected part of the village, and container trucks are coming and going full of debris.

“Now we are trying to make sure there is food and water for everyone so they can eat at least a little bit,” Mr Babisz said.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova expressed her condolences and wished “a lot of strength” to the Czechs on Facebook.

Bad weather in the Czech Republic has forced Prime Minister Andrej Babis to stay in Brussels after the European summit due to the danger of landing in Prague.

In neighboring Poland, a tornado also hit the southern province of Malopolska on Thursday, damaging roofs and injuring one person, local media reported.

Tornadoes are rare in the Czech Republic. The last significant size dates from 2004 and damaged about fifty houses in the town of Litovel (East).

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