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Lightning strikes injure 51 at German rock festival as storms relentlessly batter Europe

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Tens of people were injured by lightning strikes at a rock festival in Germany on Saturday as heavy storms continued all over Europe.

In France, the death toll from flooding rose to four but the situation was starting to ease, with the Seine in Paris receding after reaching its highest levels in three decades and forcing the riverside Louvre and Orsay museums to close and move priceless artworks to safety.

At least 51 people were injured at the Rock am Ring festival in the west German town of Mendig, 15 of them seriously. Two people had to be resuscitated, according to local police.

The first day of the open-air festival had to be called off in the middle of a live performance as a severe thunderstorm hit at 8pm local time (7pm BST).

“We quickly took refuge in our tents, the storm was right on top of us,” Eileen Primus, a reporter for Germany’s Bild newspaper who was attending the festival, wrote. “The band had to flee the stage.”

One man was seen lying in the mud with what appeared to be scorch marks on his jeans as paramedics attended to him.

Several tents were destroyed by the heavy rainfall, but organisers at first insisted the three-day festival would resume as planned, with performances by the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Black Sabbath scheduled over the weekend.

However they later suspended the event entirely as the stormy weather continued.

It is not the first time the festival has been hit by dangerous storms. Last year, 33 spectators were hit by lightning.

That did not discourage estimated crowds of 90,000 from attending the first day of the festival this year, despite the storms that have led to severe flooding across the region.

While water levels are subsiding in southern Germany, which was badly hit in the past week, heavy storms have now reached the west of the country.

In the city of Cologne, one man had to be rescued from his car after it became stuck in a flooded underpass, and the university hospital had to call for help after it was inundated in several places.

Across Europe, at least 17 people have been killed in floods caused by exceptionally heavy rains that have trapped people in their homes and forced rescuers to navigate swamped streets in lifeboats.

Four of them have died in France, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Saturday.

More than 20,000 people have been evacuated over the past week from the Loire Valley and the greater Paris area.

Over 17,110 French homes remained without electricity on Saturday.

Paris firefighters warned people to keep away from dangerous parts of the River Seine, but crowds gathered undeterred on bridges to snap pictures of the fast-flowing waters that have engulfed riverside walkways and roads.

From a peak of 6.10 metres in the early hours of Saturday, the river began to subside, falling to 6.04 metres at 10am (9am BST), the environment ministry’s Vigicrues flood watch website said.

President François Hollande said a state of “natural catastrophe” would be declared when the cabinet meets on Wednesday, a necessary step to trigger compensation payments.

Mr Hollande made a late-night visit on Friday to the Louvre, where dozens of volunteers worked through the night to move some of the 38,000 artworks considered to be endangered.


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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field