From: Reuters
Published March 1, 2008 11:51 AM

High winds kill 6 in Austria, Czech Republic

VIENNA/PRAGUE (Reuters) - Gale-force winds hammered Austria and the Czech Republic on Saturday, killing at least six people and sweeping roofs off houses, uprooting trees and cutting power lines, officials said.

They said air traffic in both countries was briefly interrupted when the storm, packing winds of between 155 kph (96 miles) and 180 kph (110 mph) lashed parts of central Europe, including southern Germany.

Austrian media reported that four people had died as a result of the storm, three of them foreigners on holiday.

Two people died when uprooted trees smashed into their cars in Lower Austria province near Vienna and Tyrol province in the northwest, police and rescue services quoted by national news agency APA said. One of the two was identified as a 77-year-old German tourist.

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A 69-yea-old German tourist was killed by a falling tree at a Tyrol campground. The fourth, also believed to be a British tourist, died when a boulder loosened by high winds struck the taxi he was riding through a mountain valley near Salzburg.

In the Czech Republic, an 11-year old girl was killed by a falling tree north of Prague, and flying metal sheets struck and killed an 80-year old priest in a town east of the central European country's capital, News agency CTK said.

A fallen high-voltage grid pylon blocked traffic on a highway north of the Czech capital Prague. Several other smaller roads were closed by falling trees, snarling traffic and interrupting railway services in many areas, Czech Radio reported.

In Austria, APA news agency said downed trees had also blocked numerous roads and interrupted railway services.

Flights at Vienna's Schwechat airport were halted for about half an hour, the agency said. Power cuts hit tens of thousands of households.

(Reporting by Mark Heinrich in Vienna and Jan Lopatka in Prague; editing by Sami Aboudi)

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