Tatra Mountains: Two children among five killed by lightning strikes

Henry Austin
Rescuers airlift a lightning strike victim in Poland's Tatra Mountains: Getty
Rescuers airlift a lightning strike victim in Poland's Tatra Mountains: Getty

Two children were among five people killed by lightning strikes pummelling the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland and neighbouring Slovakia, authorities said.

Another 100 people were injured as the violent thunderstorm swept in on a day that had started off clear and bright.

The children and another two adults were killed in Poland, Kinga Czerwinska, a spokeswoman for the country’s air ambulance service told the TVN24 news channel.

A Czech tourist fell hundreds of metres to his death down the side of a mountain after lightning knocked him off Banikov peak, the Slovak rescue service said.

The lightning probably hit some of the metal chains installed on Giewont peak to aid tourists in their climb, rescuers with the Polish Tatra emergency service, known as TOPR, said.

After visiting the region, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said some among the over 100 injured were in a very serious condition with severe burns or head injuries.

Many fell after the lightning strikes or were hit by falling rocks, he added.

Krakow province governor Piotr Cwik told reporters that the death toll could certainly rise.

Part of the Carpathian mountain range, the Tatras are the highest mountains in Poland and in Slovakia. Their scenic lakes and peaks that soar to 2,655 metres (8,700 feet) attract tourists from around the world.

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The lightning strikes were the worst accident in the Tatras since August 1937, when lighting killed four people on Giewont.

Tourist Grzegorz Pyzel told TVN24 the weather was clear as he made the halfway point of the Giewont peak with his wife, when suddenly they heard thunder and thought it was a jet overhead.

“Soon lightning struck and we turned back. Suddenly it started pouring and you could hear thunder roaring from every possible direction,” he said.

The couple reached a shelter on Hala Kondratowa, at the foot of the mountain, and soon others started coming in, saying there were injured people further up the mountain, he added.

Agencies contributed to this report

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