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Czech Republic: Powerful tornado sweeps through villages

A powerful tornado has engulfed several villages in the southeastern Czech Republic, injuring 150 people and causing extensive damage, local media say.

Thursday’s storm blew roofs off a number of buildings in southern Breclav and Hodonin districts, uprooting trees and overturning cars. The worst-hit places looked like a war zone in videos posted by witnesses.

Rescue teams from all over the country and also from neighboring Austria and Slovakia have been deployed. Half of the village of Hrusky was destroyed by the tornado, a local official told Lidove Noviny newspaper.

The tornado and hailstones hit the border town of Hodonin, damaging a retirement home and destroying the local zoo.

The situation was like a battlefield, said Antonin Tesarik, the director of Hodonin Hospital, where up to 200 wounded 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 as saying. The tornado also caused severe traffic disruptions and blackouts, blocking entire highways and leaving more than 100,000 homes without electricity overnight.

In a tweet, Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamacek described the situation as very serious and said all available rescue units were sent to the scene.

The minister, who arrived in the disaster-stricken area, said a state of emergency had been declared. How rare are tornadoes in Europe? 9breaking Weather Forecaster Ben Rich explains:

Tornadoes are not as rare as you might imagine in Europe – several hundred are thought to land across the continent every year. Exact estimates vary, however, and some almost certainly go unreported because they strike in sparsely populated rural areas.

Tornadoes have been reported on every continent on Earth except Antarctica — and even here they are theoretically possible. But the US sees the most tornadoes of all, averaging more than 1,000 a year. The country also records more of the most violent twisters than anywhere else in the world.

The mountainous landscape and proximity to the warm, humid Gulf of Mexico provide the perfect conditions for violent supercell thunderstorms to develop. And these are the storms that produce tornadoes.