Violent storms buffeting western Germany on Friday killed at least one man and injured some 40 people, 10 of them seriously, when an apparent tornado raked several towns, police and local media said.
Images on social media showed an apparent tornado with its distinctive spinning cyclone flinging debris through the air, though the German Weather Service did not immediately confirm a tornado had occurred but Meteorologists had warned that heavy rainfall and hail were expected in western and central Germany on Friday, with storms producing gusts up to 130km/h.
The 38-year-old man in the far-western town of Wittgert died of head injuries sustained when he fell after suffering an electric shock in a flooded cellar, local media quoted police as saying.
Police said up to 40 people had been injured in Paderborn, a town of some 150,000 half-way between Frankfurt and Hamburg. Rail and road transport were disrupted throughout the region.
In nearby Hellinghausen, images shared on social media showed that a steeple had been ripped from the roof of a church tower, its remains scattered around the churchyard.
Police posted images showing trees felled or split in half, as well as roofs that had been swept clean of tiles by the winds in Paderborn.
“Some 40 people were injured in the storm, at least 10 of them seriously,” city police said in a statement. “Sheeting and insulation were blown kilometres away. Countless roofs are uncovered or damaged. Many trees still lie on destroyed cars.”
They asked locals to stay at home. The German Weather Service warned that the stormy weather was set to continue.
Meteorologists said the extreme weather was caused by hot air coming from Africa meeting relatively cooler air moving down from northern Europe. Storms on Thursday had already disrupted traffic, uprooted trees that toppled on to railway tracks and roads, and flooded hundreds of basements in western Germany.
Heavy storm damage was also reported in the nearby town of Lippstadt. A church steeple in the town was toppled and the German news agency dpa reported that more than 100 people were temporarily trapped in a local open air pool after fallen trees blocked the exit.
The regional fire service said all available rescuers were being deployed to the area.
Police said two French citizens died after their motorised paraglider was caught by a strong gust of wind shortly after taking off on Thursday from an airfield in Ballenstedt, some 175km south west of Berlin.
Police in Saxony-Anhalt state said the pair, both 59, were urged to land because of a forecast for an abrupt change in the weather.
Shortly after the warning, “they appear to have been hit by a gust of wind that caused the paraglider to collapse, and the air vehicle crashed on to a field from a height of about 40 metres ”, police said.
Schools in the western city of Cologne closed before midday to give students time to make it home safely before the storms hit.
Further south in Ahrweiler county, all schools were closed on Friday. More than 130 people were killed in the region last summer after it was hit by a flash flood in July. – AP