This is the moment daylight disappeared in seconds as a ferocious 135mph tornado tore through Switzerland destroying everything in its path – as wild weather extremes continued to hammer Europe.
Wildfires were burning in at least nine countries as millions living in southern Europe continued to experience extreme heat, while ferocious storms rattled swathes of the continent’s north, killing several people.
In Portugal, locals and firefighters scrambled to put out a fire burning across a natural park near a beach resort, while in Croatia fires set off old landmines near the historic city of Dubrovnik.
Italy‘s southern island of Sicily has also been devastated by wildfires that have killed three elderly people, its regional president said today.
Meanwhile, fires continue to wreak havoc in Greece with efforts to contain the fires yesterday resulting in the deaths of two firefighter pilots. In Croatia, dozens of firefighters are battling to contain a blaze near the historic city of Dubrovnik.
The tornado ripped through the Swiss city of La Chaux-de-Fonds on Monday, killing at least one person and injuring around 15 others.
The storm ‘unfortunately caused the death of one person in their 50s following the toppling of a construction crane’, the Neuchatel police said.
The storm passed through quickly but the strong winds caused significant damage.
Vehicles were damaged or destroyed, roofs were torn off, street furniture was blown away and trees were uprooted.
Footage taken from the city showed a cloud rolling in over the lush, green Swiss countryside. As the fog enveloped the settlement shown in the visit, the winds suddenly picked up, causing trees to almost topple over and hail to fall.
Officials said a wind speed of 135 miles per hour was recorded on Monday ‘under a storm cell which suddenly strengthened when arriving in the region.’
Neuchatel police urged people not to expose themselves to risks such as falling tiles or trees, and warned further storms were likely.
Meanwhile in Sicily, the charred bodies of a couple in their 70s were found in their burnt-out home on the outskirts of Palermo, the regional capital.
Another woman in her late 80s died in the Palermo province after an ambulance was unable to reach her home due to fires in the area.
In an overnight message on Facebook, Sicilian President Renato Schifani said ‘scorching heat and unprecedented devastating fires’ had turned Tuesday into ‘one of the most difficult days in decades’.
Italian firefighters said they battled nearly 1,400 fires between Sunday and Tuesday, including 650 in Sicily and 390 in Calabria, the southern mainland region where a bedridden 98-year-old man was killed as fire consumed his home.
Fires were still burning on the hills around Palermo on Wednesday, with Canadair planes back in operation to try to douse the flames.
Large areas of the Mediterranean have been sweltering under an intense summer heatwave on Tuesday, causing deadly blazes across the region.
Sicily is a major tourist destination but a fire inside a terminal building last week caused the near-total closure of its biggest airport in Catania on the east of the island. Palermo airport was also closed for a few hours on Tuesday because of a wildfire nearby.
‘I hope that tourist flows in the areas affected by the fires will not suffer losses,’ Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci, a Sicilian, told the La Stampa newspaper.
‘The risk … is there and it is understandable’.
The government was set to meet in Rome later Wednesday to declare a state of emergency in regions affected by natural disasters and introduce a special furlough scheme for workers most exposed to the heatwave.
While Italy’s south is battling with wildfires, the north of the country is reeling from severe storms that on Tuesday killed two people, including a 16-year-old girl scout crushed by a falling tree.
Residents of Milan were surveying the mess after the dramatic overnight storm and winds of over 100 kilometres per hour.
‘It all happened around 4 or 5 AM (0200-0300 GMT) this morning, it was very short but very intense, it knocked down several trees … with the wind gusts they took off and broke up,’ witness Roberto Solfrizzo, 66, told Reuters.