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Tornados injure 34 across Europe

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Severe thunderstorms accompanied by hailstones and tornados tore across parts of Europe on Thursday and Friday, a trail of destruction in Germany, France and Britain.

At least 34 people were left injured, some of them seriously and strong gusts over turned trailers and toppled trees. In some areas fallen branches blocked train lines and streets causing traffic chaos.

In the British midlands city of Birmingham many residents were forced to spend the night in local emergency centres as a tornado ripped through a square-kilometre area of the city.

Twenty people were injured, three of them seriously, and hundreds of houses and cars were damaged. Rescue workers were using dogs to search the debris of collapsed buildings in a hunt for possible victims.

"It all happened within a few minutes. There was a tree lying there on a car and another one on houses. It was like something from a film," one eyewitness told the BBC.

Britain's Met Office said wind speeds reached 200 kilometres an hour.

In central France storms injured 14 people, two of them seriously. Seven itinerant workers, in the area to work on the cherry harvest, were injured late Thursday when the strong gusts overturned the trailers in which they lived near the city of Auxerre. The most seriously injured of them was pinned under his trailer for hours before being rescued.

Seven other people were injured by fallen branches or in traffic accidents caused by the heavy rains.

In addition, a tornado caused severe damage early Friday to nearly half the residences of the town of Estivareilles, in central France, tearing off roofs and destroying verandahs. About half of the town's 2,000 inhabitants were left without electricity.

In Germany hail storms near the northwestern city of Bremen left roads unpassable. In the northern Hesse and southeastern North Rhine-Westphalia regions there were reports of two-centimetre wide hailstones.

In Schleswig-Holstein on the eastern coast of Germany, heavy rainfall flooded some parts of the canal system.

Several train routes leading to and from Hamburg, Dusseledorf and Bremen were blocked by fallen trees on the line leading to hours-long delays on rail travel.

In Poland, however, sun worshippers are set to spend the weekend basking in record temperatures, with the mercury expected to hit 38 degrees celsius Friday, RMF radio reported.

On Thursday temperatures of 40 C were recorded, the highest in Poland in 83 years.

Newspapers reported long tailbacks as city dwellers fled to the cooler climes of the Tatra valleys while tabloid newspaper Fakt said the price of bottled mineral water had risen one-and-a-half fold in some shops.

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