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Death toll from storms climbs to 13 including three children across France, Italy and Austria

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‘Hellish’ storms sweeping across Europe have claimed the lives of at least 13 people as hurricane-force winds rip up trees from the ground, fire golf ball-sized hailstones at homes and flood the streets with huge downpours.

Three children are among the dead, as well as a British woman in her 60s who was swept away by raging torrents in front of her husband while kayaking in Corsica.

The extreme weather produced 140mph gusts, leaving 45,000 households without power on the French island, where five others were killed including a teenage girl crushed by a tree and an elderly woman smacked by a beach hut roof. 

Two people were killed in separate incidents in Tuscany when trees were ripped up by storms Thursday, one near the city of Lucca and another near Carrara. Another four people were injured by falling trees at a campground near Carrara. 

In Austria, two girls, aged four and eight, were killed when sudden strong winds toppled trees at a lake in Lavant Valley, near the southern city of Graz.

Germany’s national weather service DWD warned of ‘extremely abundant, prolonged rain’ along the edge of the Alps that could see up to 140 litres of water per square metre fall over a 48-hour period that could cause flooding.

The Bavarian Red Cross said it was raising the alarm level for its air rescue specialists, putting helicopter crews on heightened alert.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin looks at the scene of destruction in Corsica where trees have been ripped out of the ground

A man struggles and falls over in a flooded street in Cassis, France, where huge downpours have followed weeks of drought

A man struggles and falls over in a flooded street in Cassis, France, where huge downpours have followed weeks of drought

A man struggles and falls over in a flooded street in Cassis, France, where huge downpours have followed weeks of drought

In Corsica a number of cars have been destroyed by debris being whipped up into the air or trees smashing down on the vehicles

In Corsica a number of cars have been destroyed by debris being whipped up into the air or trees smashing down on the vehicles

One driver in Corsica had a very close call when a number of large trees fell down on to the road just yards in front of him

One driver in Corsica had a very close call when a number of large trees fell down on to the road just yards in front of him

One driver in Corsica had a very close call when a number of large trees fell down on to the road just yards in front of him

A roof is blown to smithereens in Corsica as wild winds ravaged the French holiday island in the Mediterranean

A roof is blown to smithereens in Corsica as wild winds ravaged the French holiday island in the Mediterranean 

In Italy, a ferris wheel is battered by a storm in Piombino as much of Europe grapples with the wild weather after weeks of drought

In Italy, a ferris wheel is battered by a storm in Piombino as much of Europe grapples with the wild weather after weeks of drought

Anything that wasn't fastened to the ground was at risk of flying through the air, as holidaymakers and homeowners watched on at the shocking scenes

Anything that wasn’t fastened to the ground was at risk of flying through the air, as holidaymakers and homeowners watched on at the shocking scenes

Hundreds in Corsica have been evacuated to spend the night sleeping in a sports hall to escape from the violent and lethal storms

Hundreds in Corsica have been evacuated to spend the night sleeping in a sports hall to escape from the violent and lethal storms

Corsica has been hit by a very violent storm which left at least six dead, dozens injured, and wreaked havoc across the island

Corsica has been hit by a very violent storm which left at least six dead, dozens injured, and wreaked havoc across the island

Branches and fallen trees are seen near Lake St. Andraer after a severe storm hit in Lavanttal, southern Austria, where five have been killed

Branches and fallen trees are seen near Lake St. Andraer after a severe storm hit in Lavanttal, southern Austria, where five have been killed

In Marseille, hundreds ran for cover under a bus shelter as torrential rain hammered down on the French city

In Marseille, hundreds ran for cover under a bus shelter as torrential rain hammered down on the French city

A parasol lies on the ground on the terrace of the Eden bar at Piazza San Marco in Venice amid the violent storms across Europe

A parasol lies on the ground on the terrace of the Eden bar at Piazza San Marco in Venice amid the violent storms across Europe

A 13-year-old girl was killed in a camping site (pictured) when a tree fell in Sagone on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica

A 13-year-old girl was killed in a camping site (pictured) when a tree fell in Sagone on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica

Witnesses of the storm, which wrecked campsites, delayed trains and uprooted trees, said they had never seen anything like it on the island

Witnesses of the storm, which wrecked campsites, delayed trains and uprooted trees, said they had never seen anything like it on the island

Corsica is a popular tourist hotspot but campsites have been completely evacuated as people spent the night in a sports hall

Corsica is a popular tourist hotspot but campsites have been completely evacuated as people spent the night in a sports hall

Hailstones the size of golfballs rained down on Riccione in Italy, damaging homes and cars as storms sweep across Europe

Hailstones the size of golfballs rained down on Riccione in Italy, damaging homes and cars as storms sweep across Europe

A toppled pylon lies on a field in Weisskirchen in Styria, south-eastern Austria, after a severe storm

A toppled pylon lies on a field in Weisskirchen in Styria, south-eastern Austria, after a severe storm

Officials said 13 people were injured, two of them seriously.

Many of the victims were tourists visiting the popular tourist region.

Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen called the children’s deaths ‘an unfathomable tragedy’.

The mayor of the nearby town of Wolfsberg, Hannes Primus, said the area looked ‘like a battlefield’.

In Lower Austria, three women were killed when lightning struck a tree near the central town of Gaming, causing it to fall over.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he had called an emergency government meeting by video conference on Thursday evening to respond to the crisis.

Visiting Corsica, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that at one point about 350 people had been reported missing as pleasure boats had capsized or been thrown adrift, but he added they had now all been found alive and well.

The extreme weather produced 140mph gusts, leaving 45,000 households without power on the French island, where five others were killed including a teenage girl crushed by a tree and an elderly woman smacked by a beach hut roof.

The husband of the British kayaker, who gave his name as Thierry, told France Bleu how he tried to save her.

He said: ‘I told her to try to get in the kayak – I’ll help you. I’ll get in too and we’ll take refuge there.’

When he saw an empty inflatable, he tried to swim towards it to save them.

But he said: ‘I went to her. Her eyes were open and she was foaming at the mouth. She was dead.’

Rescue crews also found the bodies of a 62-year-old fisherman, according to the French maritime authority for the Mediterranean. He died as a result of the sudden storm and more than 100 grounded, wrecked or stranded ships in the area have called for emergency help.

A 46-year-old man died in a campsite in the town of Calvi and a sixth victim was reported late Thursday.

Heavy rain and winds lash the Mediterranean island of Corsica during a deadly storm in Calvi

Heavy rain and winds lash the Mediterranean island of Corsica during a deadly storm in Calvi

The storm raged as many areas of France - which has been hit by heatwaves and severe drought - saw more rain in a few hours than in recent months combined

The storm raged as many areas of France – which has been hit by heatwaves and severe drought – saw more rain in a few hours than in recent months combined

Tourists from Sagone and people who lost their boat sit on camp beds in a gymnasium offered by the city of Ajaccio in Corsica

Tourists from Sagone and people who lost their boat sit on camp beds in a gymnasium offered by the city of Ajaccio in Corsica

Witnesses of the storm, which wrecked campsites, delayed trains and uprooted trees, said they had never seen anything like it on the island.

‘We have never seen such huge storms as this, you would think it was a tropical storm,’ said Cedric Boell, manager of the restaurant Les Gones Corses in northern Corsica, who saw two pleasure boats tossed on to nearby rocks.

Yolhan Niveau, 24, a wildlife photographer staying at a campsite near San-Nicolao in the northeast of the island, said the storm had torn through the site, uprooting trees and damaging mobile homes.

‘There was no warning… I don’t feel scared just stupefaction. No one expected this,’ Niveau said.

The storm raged as many areas of France – which has been hit by heatwaves and severe drought – saw more rain in a few hours than in recent months combined.

Meteo France, which said that the exact location of storms was hard to predict, had not given advance warning. It issued an alert with ‘immediate effect’ as strong winds began to hit the island.

In Marseille, streets were flooded and streams of water ran down steps in the port city, videos shared on social media showed

In Marseille, streets were flooded and streams of water ran down steps in the port city, videos shared on social media showed

In Marseille, streets were flooded and streams of water ran down steps in the port city, videos shared on social media showed

‘I was woken around 7:30 am by a very huge storm’ that knocked out both electricity and mobile phone networks, said Benjamin Roux, a 26-year-old tourist, at the beach near where the woman was killed.

He had been planning to go scuba diving, but instead helped the passengers of a boat who were sleeping aboard when it was suddenly thrown onto the shore by the waves.

‘They managed to get out without injuries, but they’re just devastated,’ he told AFP.

On France’s mainland, households were left without power after a storm hit the southern Loire and Ain departments, while in Marseille, streets were flooded and streams of water ran down steps in the port city, videos shared on social media showed.

Further north, drought has left the river Loire, famous for the chateaux along its banks, so shallow that even flat-bottomed tourist barges could barely navigate it.

In Lower Austria, three women were killed when lightning struck a tree near the central town of Gaming, causing it to fall over

In Lower Austria, three women were killed when lightning struck a tree near the central town of Gaming, causing it to fall over

Brenches and fallen trees are seen near Lake St. Andraer after a severe storm hit in Lavanttal

Brenches and fallen trees are seen near Lake St. Andraer after a severe storm hit in Lavanttal

In Austria, two girls, aged four and eight, were killed when sudden strong winds toppled trees at a lake in Lavant Valley, near the southern city of Graz

In Austria, two girls, aged four and eight, were killed when sudden strong winds toppled trees at a lake in Lavant Valley, near the southern city of Graz

The Italian regions of Tuscany and Veneto both declared a state of emergency, as the violent storms in the north contrasted with temperatures up to 43 degrees Celsius in southern Italy.

In Venice, high winds detached pieces of brick from St. Mark’s bell tower, which stands in front of the famed cathedral. 

Tourists were evacuated from the structure, which was cordoned off. The storm upended chairs and tables in St. Mark’s Square and elsewhere, and swept away beach chairs on the nearby Lido.

Winds rose suddenly and were calmed within five minutes, said Carlo Alberto Tesserin, the caretaker of the Basilica and bell tower. ‘These were not usual winds for us,’ Tesserin told The Associated Press.

In northern Italy, an overnight storm forced the closures of a train line southeast of Genoa after high winds carried beach structures onto the tracks, damaging the electrical circuitry.

The storm struck during Italy’s busiest beach vacation week. The mayor of Sestri Levanti, Valentina Ghio, warned that whirlwinds were possible and appealed to visitors to stay away from beaches until the severe weather had passed.

Two municipal police officers guard the exit from the bell tower of San Marco, from where fragments of the bricks of the tower broke off due to the storm

Two municipal police officers guard the exit from the bell tower of San Marco, from where fragments of the bricks of the tower broke off due to the storm

Street vendors on the shore of San Marco collect the goods from the stalls damaged by the storm that hit Venice

Street vendors on the shore of San Marco collect the goods from the stalls damaged by the storm that hit Venice

Police officers stand by a cordoned off area at the bottom of the Bell Tower at St. Mark's place in Venice after the wind knocked pieces from the roof

Police officers stand by a cordoned off area at the bottom of the Bell Tower at St. Mark’s place in Venice after the wind knocked pieces from the roof

Firefighters recover a souvenir stall run by a man from Bangladesh (back right), that ended up in the Grand Canal in Venice

Firefighters recover a souvenir stall run by a man from Bangladesh (back right), that ended up in the Grand Canal in Venice

Hail the size of walnuts pummelled Italy’s Liguria region with enough force to break the windows of homes and damage orchards and gardens.

While northern Italy has suffered its worst drought in decades this year, heavy rains in recent days that brought scattered hailstorms, whirlwinds and flooding have damaged or destroyed entire crops of fruits and vegetables along with vineyards and olive orchards, according to the Italian agricultural lobby Coldiretti.

The fierce rains come amid a summer of of drought, heat waves and forest fires across Europe.

Yet to the east, on Hungary’s Southern Great Plain, shepherd Sandor Kalman can only dream of rainfall. He grazes sheep on lands desiccated by intense heat and low rainfall. As he walks on his pastures, the grass — splotched by broad patches of dry dust and sand – crunches beneath his boots.

‘In this heat wave, this clay soil actually burns the sheep’s feet, it’s so hot,’ he said, adding that his herding dogs also find it difficult to walk on the parched earth. ‘I’m 57 years old, but I’ve never seen a drought this big.’

Hungarian meteorological data this year shows the most severe lack of rainfall since 1901.

Water levels of the Danube River, one of Europe’s largest waterways, have dropped by five feet in three weeks near Budapest, leading the regional water company to warn that the supply of drinking water could be threatened.

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