Tornado Hits West German City; dozens of injured

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BERLIN (AP) — A tornado ripped through the western German city of Paderborn on Friday, injuring dozens of people as it blew off roofs, toppled trees and hurled debris for miles, authorities said.

Forecasters had warned that heavy rain and hail were expected in western and central Germany on Friday, with storms producing wind gusts of up to 130 kph (81 mph). Thursday’s storms had already disrupted traffic, uprooted trees that collapsed onto train tracks and highways, and flooded hundreds of basements in western Germany.

Paderborn police said 43 people were injured in the storm that hit the city. Thirty were being treated in hospitals and 10 of them were seriously injured.

One woman was in a life-threatening condition, police said.

They urged people to stay indoors so as not to hamper rescue efforts or put themselves in danger.

Heavy storm damage was also reported in the nearby town of Lippstadt. The bell tower of a church in the city collapsed and the German news agency dpa reported that more than 100 people were temporarily trapped in a local outdoor swimming pool after fallen trees blocked the exit.

The regional fire service said all available rescuers were being deployed to the area.

Bavarian authorities said 14 people were injured on Friday when the wooden cabin they were trying to shelter in collapsed during a storm at Lake Brombach, south of Nuremberg. Among the injured were several children and a 37-year-old woman, who was airlifted to a hospital with serious injuries.

Police said two French citizens died after their motorized paraglider was caught in a strong gust of wind shortly after taking off on Thursday from an airfield in Ballenstedt, 175 kilometers (109 miles) southwest of Berlin. Saxony-Anhalt state police said the couple, both 59, were urged to land due to a forecast of an abrupt change in weather.

Shortly after the warning, “they appear to have been hit by a gust of wind which caused the paraglider to collapse, and the aerial vehicle crashed into a field from a height of about 40 meters (131 feet),” police said.

Schools in the western city of Cologne closed before noon Friday to give students time to get home safely before storms hit.

Further south, in Ahrweiler County, all schools remained closed Friday. More than 130 people died in the region last summer after it was hit by flash flooding in July.

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