* At least three killed, hundreds injured
* First tornado since 2018
* Many homes destroyed
The tornado late on Thursday reported in towns around Hodonin along the Slovak and Austrian borders and 270 km (167 miles) southeast of Prague, may have reached windspeeds above 332 kph (206 mph), a Czech Television meteorologist said.
Firefighters searched the rubble on Friday while the army sent in a team with heavy engineering equipment to deal with the aftermath of the strongest storm in the central European nation’s modern history and its first tornado since 2018.
In the village of Hrusky with a population of 1,600, a deputy mayor estimated that a third of the houses were destroyed and many needed inspections before people could safely return.
“Part of the village is levelled, only the perimeter walls without roofs, without windows remain,” Marek Babisz told news site iDNES.
“The church has no roof, it has no tower, cars were hurled at family houses, people had nowhere to hide. The village from the church down practically ceased to exist,” he said.
A spokesperson for the South Moravia region’s ambulance service told Czech Television three people died in the storms while hundreds were reported injured.
Officials said the storm destroyed thousands of homes and appealed to people not to drive to the affected areas so rescue services could work, urging them to send donations instead.
More than 100 residents of an elderly home in Hodonin had to be evacuated.
Prime Minister Andrej Babis cut short his attendance at the European Council summit in Brussels to visit the area where electricity and water remained shut off in a number of villages.
Czech TV reported as many as seven small towns were “massively” damaged, citing an emergency services spokesperson.
Search and rescue teams fanned out in the area, with neighbouring Austria and Slovakia also sending emergency units to help while residents on Friday surveyed the damage.
“There used to be two rooms above this,” Mikulcice resident Pavel Netopilik said pointing to the rubble surrounding his house where the upstairs floors collapsed. “Now they are not here. The ceiling collapsed.” (Reporting by David Cerny in Moravska Nova Ves and Jason Hovet in Prague; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Philippa Fletcher)