British tourist killed as storms wreak havoc across Europe

·3 min read
Corsica was hit by a very violent storm which left at least 5 dead - Abaca Press/Alamy Live News
Corsica was hit by a very violent storm which left at least 5 dead - Abaca Press/Alamy Live News

A British woman was among five people, including a teenage girl, killed in violent storms in Corsica as the holiday hotspot was battered by hurricane-strength winds on Thursday.

The tourist went missing while kayaking off Erbalunga, near Bastia on the west coast of Corsica. Authorities there took part in about 80 rescue operations during the freak winds.

Two victims, including a teenage girl, were killed when trees fell in campsites, two were at sea and one died when a beach hut hit her car.

Severe storms across Europe killed at least 12 people in total, including two children in Austria, but Corsica was the hardest hit.

Hail, heavy rain and winds peaking at 140mph swept the Mediterranean island, which is part of France, on Thursday morning, smashing boats and cars, uprooting trees and damaging houses.

A storm hit Corsica, uprooting dozens of trees
A storm hit Corsica, uprooting dozens of trees

"It's such a paradox," Regional leader Giles Simeoni said, referring to the recent heatwaves.

"For weeks we had been living in fear of fires ... and this rain which was supposed to be beneficial turned into a deadly windstorm."

More than 5,000 holidaymakers on the island who had been evacuated to temporary shelters should be able to go back to their campsites on Friday, Mr Simeoni said.

More rain and some storms were still possible in Corsica on Friday, forecaster Meteo France said after it downgraded the weather warning level from "orange" to "yellow".

France is expected to classify the storm as a natural catastrophe next week to help homeowners and businesses with insurance claims for storm damage.

Corsica was hit by a very violent storm which left at least 5 dead - Shootpix/ABACA/Shutterstock
Corsica was hit by a very violent storm which left at least 5 dead - Shootpix/ABACA/Shutterstock

Parts of mainland France - which has been hit by a series of heatwaves, wildfires, and severe drought over the past weeks - also saw more rain in just a few hours than in recent months combined.

Two girls, aged four and eight, died in southern Austria when sudden strong wind toppled trees leaving the area looking “like a battlefield”.

A further 13 people were injured, two of them seriously, in the Lavant Valley. Officials said many of those hurt were tourists to the holiday destination.

Austrian President Alexander Van Der Bellen called the children's deaths "an unfathomable tragedy."

In Lower Austria, three women were killed when lightning struck a tree near the central town of Gaming, causing it to fall over. In Italy, two people died in storms on Thursday.

Bystanders look on at boats thrown onto the beach of Sagone in Coggia
Bystanders look on at boats thrown onto the beach of Sagone in Coggia

“Hurricane” winds have devastated parts of Austria, with weather experts urging people to take “extreme caution” as the weather front moved towards the capital Vienna on Friday.

Austria’s storm centre UWZ has issued the highest storm warning level covering large parts of the country’s south, with gusts of up to 86 mph recorded on Thursday.

In Germany, rescue services were put on high alert on Friday as a heavy rainfall warning was issued.

The weather service warned of “extremely abundant, prolonged rain” near the Alps, which could drop as much as 5.5 inches of rainfall in the next 48 hours and cause floods.

Torrential rain hit parts of New Zealand for a fourth day on Friday, forcing hundreds of people from their homes as rivers overflowed their banks and waterlogged ground became unstable.

Nelson, on the north coast of the South Island, has been worst affected with more than 400 homes evacuated and some declared uninhabitable because of the rains.