Czech Republic tornado kills at least five

The frightening images of the powerful tornado that swept through several cities in the Czech Republic

“This is hell on earth,” said regional governor Jan Grolich after visiting the area affected by a tornado accompanied by hailstones on Thursday evening in the southeast of the Czech Republic. According to him, the rescuers have carried out searches in “99%” of the affected villages and do not expect to find new bodies.

A spokesperson for the local police confirmed the death of five people, as well as the hospitalization of 63 wounded, ten of them seriously injured. New calls from injured people continue to arrive, said Hedvika Kropackova, spokesperson for the local emergency services.

The army has been deployed to assist in the search and rescuers from neighboring Austria and Slovakia are assisting in the operations.

The tornado, with hailstones the size of a tennis ball, hit several towns and villages, including Hodonin, on the border with Slovakia. In this city, a retirement home as well as the 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 cuts, with 78,000 homes and businesses without power on Friday morning. Traffic had to be interrupted on a major motorway connecting Prague to Bratislava.

In this wine region, the vineyards suffered great damage. The castle in the town of Valtice, which is part of the Lednice-Valtice cultural landscape classified as a Unesco World Heritage Site, was also affected.

Videos circulating on social networks showed buildings destroyed, trees torn down, as well as fires.

More than a thousand houses affected

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said more than 1,000 homes had been affected by the storm. Marek Babisz, the deputy mayor of the tornado-hit village of Hrusky, said half of his village had been razed to the ground. Experts are now checking the most affected part of the village “to determine which houses will be demolished and which can be saved,” he said.

Hrusky’s church lost its belfry and roof in the tornado. Cleanup is underway in the least affected part of the village, with container trucks arriving and leaving full of debris.

“We are now trying to ensure that there is food and water for everyone so that they can eat at least a little,” said Marek Babisz.

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

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