A tornado has swept through several villages in the south-eastern Czech Republic, killing three people and injuring at least 60, rescuers say.
Thursday’s storm blew off roofs from a number of buildings in the southern Breclav and Hodonin districts, uprooting trees and overturning cars.
The worst-hit places looked like a war zone in videos posted by witnesses.
“It’s living hell,” said South Moravia regional governor Jan Grolich after visiting the area.
Rescue teams from across the country and also from neighbouring Austria and Slovakia have been deployed.
Michaela Bothová, a spokeswoman for the South Moravian rescue service, told Czech TV that 63 people had been taken to hospital by medical services, ten of whom had severe injuries. Three later died.
Dozens of other people sought medical help themselves, she added, and further casualties could not be ruled out as rescuers searched rubble.
Half of the village of Hrusky was destroyed by the tornado, its deputy mayor Marek Babisz said, according to local media.
“The church is without the tower, the elementary school has no roof and insulation any more, only walls remained from what were houses,” he told Czech public radio.
The tornado and hailstones struck the border town of Hodonin, damaging an old people’s home and destroying the local zoo.
The situation looked like a battlefield, said Antonin Tesarik, the director of Hodonin’s hospital, where up to 200 injured people have been treated.
“It was an apocalypse. There was blood everywhere and helpless people in tears. They saved their lives and lost the roofs over their heads,” CTK news agency quoted him saying.
The tornado also caused severe traffic disruptions and power outages, blocking entire motorways and leaving more than 100,000 homes without electricity overnight.
In a tweet, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek described the situation as very serious, saying that all available rescue units were being sent to the scene.
The minister, who has arrived in the disaster-hit region, said a state of emergency had been declared.
Tornadoes aren’t as rare as you might imagine in Europe – it’s thought a few hundred touch down across the continent every year. Exact estimates vary, though, and some almost certainly go unreported as they hit in sparsely populated rural areas.
Tornadoes have been reported in every continent on Earth except Antarctica – and even here, they are theoretically possible.
But the US sees the most tornadoes of all, with more than 1,000 per year on average. The country also records more of the most violent twisters than anywhere else in the world.
Its mountainous landscape and proximity to the warm, moist Gulf of Mexico give the perfect conditions for violent supercell thunderstorms to form. And these are the storms that give birth to tornadoes.