5 dead, hundreds injured by rare tornado in Czech Republic
A rare tornado believed to be the most devastating twister in the Czech Republic’s modern history has torn through the country’s southeast, killing at least five people and injuring hundreds, rescue services and police said Friday.
The tornado touched down late Thursday as strong thunderstorms hit the entire country. Seven towns and villages sustained heavy damage that included buildings turned to rubble and cars overturned. The storms were accompanied by hailstones that in some cases were as big as tennis balls.
More than 40,000 households remain without electricity in the southeastern region of the country.
Some 360 extra police officers were sent to the area, together with the military. Rescuers from many parts of the country who came to help were joined by counterparts from nearby Austria and Slovakia.
They were using drones and helicopters to search the rubble.
Police said at least five people were found dead, but regional government chief Jan Grolich said he expected the death toll to rise.
A tornado swept through suburban Chicago, damaging homes, toppling trees, knocking out power and causing some injuries.
“It’s a huge tragedy,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. Babis was in Brussels to attend a European Union summit and was planning to visit the damage-hit region Friday. He said he asked the EU for help.
“I’d like to offer my condolences to the families of the victims,” Babis said. “We as the government will do all we can to help the people, because it’s a real apocalypse.”
He said about 2,000 buildings have been damaged.
Marek Babisz, deputy mayor of Hrusky, told Czech public radio that half of his town was almost completely destroyed.
Many are feared dead or trapped in the rubble after part of a 12-story beachfront condo tower collapsed in the Miami suburb of Surfside.
“The church is without the tower, the elementary school has no roof and insulation anymore, only walls remained from what were houses,” Babisz said. “There are injured. It’s really terrible.”
Meteorologist Martin Setvak said it was the most damaging tornado in the country’s modern history. He said it was still unclear whether there was one twister or several.
According to Setvak, the country experienced between one and seven tornadoes annually up until 2020, but all were relatively weak.
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