Poland and Slovakia: Lightning strikes leave several dead in Tatra Mountains | News | DW | 22.08.2019

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Poland and Slovakia: Lightning strikes leave several dead in Tatra Mountains

At least five people, including two children, have been killed during an electrical storm in the Tatra Mountain range along the Polish-Slovak border. Rescue personnel are continuing to look for survivors.

The Giewont mountain in southern Poland

The summit of the Giewont mountain in the Tatra Mountains. The cross seen here at the peak was struck by lightning

At least five people were killed, including two children, and more than 100 injured after lightning struck in the Tatra Mountain range on the border of Poland and Slovakia on Thursday.

Four were killed on the Polish side, among them the two youngsters, a spokeswoman for the Polish air ambulance service, Kinga Czerwinska, told broadcaster TVN24. Slovak authorities confirmed one person died on their side of the range.

"More than 100 people are injured," Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said after arriving in the nearby mountain resort town of Zakopane.

Many of the wounded suffered severe burns or head injuries.

The Tatra Mountains lie on the Polish border with Slovakia and form a natural divide between the two countries, around 110 kilometers (70 miles) south of Krakow.

Poland's voluntary mountain rescue organization, TOPR, said rescuers had been sent to the Giewont summit, which overlooks Zakopane, where a group of people, among them children, had been struck by lightning.

A bolt hit a 15-meter-high (49-foot-high) metal cross at the mountain's 1,894-meter peak and is believed to have been the principal cause of the fatalities. The cross was installed in 1901.

Read more: The world's weather is getting more extreme

"A dozen people were struck by lightning around Mount Giewont," recovery service chief Jan Krzysztof told reporters.

Kinga Czerwinska, of the Airborne Ambulance Service, said four helicopters had been sent out to help the injured, as well as to search for survivors.

"There were a lot of incidents involving lightning strikes today in the Tatras," Krzysztof added. "We heard that after lightning struck, people fell... the current then continued along the chains securing the ascent, striking everyone along the way. It looked bad," Krzysztof said. 

Lightning also struck the nearby Czerwone Wierchy (Red Peaks) mountain, injuring a Portuguese citizen. 

At the beginning of the day, the weather was favorable, but conditions deteriorated as the day progressed, culminating in the storms.

jsi/kl (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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