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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 15:12 GMT 16:12 UK
Fatal storm hits Hungary festival
Hungarian rescuers lift a fallen tree after the storm
Falling trees triggered panic among the huge Budapest crowd
At least three people died and more than 250 were injured when a storm lashed Hungary's capital, Budapest, as huge crowds watched a firework display.

The wind toppled trees, causing at least one of the deaths at the event on Sunday on the banks of the Danube River, officials said.

Many panicked when the rainstorm broke. A search is on for two people missing after their boat capsized on the river.

At least one million people attended the display for Hungary's national day.

Families separated

Torrential rain and winds of up to 100km/h (62mph) tore down trees, smashed cars and windows and ripped off roof tiles.

Budapest. File photo
The streets around the parliament were flooded

"According to the current information, there are three dead and two missing," a government spokeswoman said on Monday. "In all, the number of injured is likely to exceed 250," she added.

A 12-year-old girl was killed when a tree collapsed, officials said.

Of those injured by falling trees, two were taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, Budapest fire brigade spokesman Peter Molnar said earlier on state television.

Water surged through the city streets close to the river, including the area near the parliament.

Damaged car in Budapest. Photo: Tiszavary Eszter

A witness, Armand Versace, told the BBC News website that the speed and ferocity of the storm triggered panic in the crowd watching the fireworks.

"Five minutes into the display a wind starts rolling in, about a minute later, the wind is reaching 70km/h... then the rain comes, but so hard and so large that it slaps your skin like a needle, then hail fell from the sky, people panicking and screaming and running over each other.

"I lost my sister and her friend, and on my way there were two disabled people in wheelchairs, people just jumping over and pushing them," he said.

Another witness, Henriett McFarlane, said the freak storm sent debris "flying all around while the fireworks were going on".

Police say they are trying to reunite many children and parents who were separated in the mayhem.

Meteorologists said they had warned that the storm was approaching, and Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has ordered an inquiry into why the event went ahead.


Have you been affected by the storm?

You can send your pictures to yourpics@bbc.co.uk or text them to 07725 100 100

It was frightening not so much because of its ferocity - we are getting used to storms like this - but the suddenness of it: 120kmph wind swept through streets and the sky fell down. Cracking noises of fallen trees or various objects falling from buildings. And the unmistakable noise of a HUGE - rough estimate was around 1 million - crowd taken off guard desperately trying to find a safe way out. Next morning I was taken aback by the destruction on the embankments, as if a giant went on a rampage with a chainsaw.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

We were there and it was very frightening, both in terms of flying objects and in terms of crowd panic. Can't show any pictures as the rain was so intense that our camera was wrecked. Almost every large potted tree in the surrounding streets were knocked over and the pots destroyed. Lots of flying slates, plants, pots, and crockery from all the restaurants. Felt like what the videos from New Orleans suggested. The most frightening were the distraught parents looking for missing children. Going out to the airport this morning there were uprooted trees everywhere. Pity no-one was forewarned; the street lights remained off and the firework show continued to the (bitter) end.
Andrew Todd, London, UK

I was watching the fire works in front of the Buda Castle when the storm hit. The storm hit very suddenly. The fireworks began at 9:00 and the storm began raging around 9:05. There was an artisan market set up around the Buda Castle, and the wooden booths together with all the wares for sale were blown into the air. Rain was falling horizontally and people went into an extreme panic. At 9:00, there still was beautiful summer weather and summer warmth. By 9:30, the crowd was a shivering panicking mess, with children searching for their parents and people walking through the rain and wind clutching bleeding wounds on their heads or other parts of their body. There was no public service support to speak of. The current Budapest city administration has a lot to be accountable for and a lot to be ashamed of. The whole experience was such a shock and left me completely without faith in the current Budapest and National Hungarian government - very sad especially on a day where we are supposed to celebrate Hungary as a nation.
Eddy, Budapest, Hungary

I was watching the fireworks from a friend's flat that was on the 5th floor in a building facing the Danube. It was almost surreal the way the storm started soon after the fireworks, so unexpected and so strong. Seven windows of the flat were shattered to pieces, and the wind was blowing so strongly that four grown men couldn't close the balcony doors shut. We could hear the people screaming in the streets, it was very scary. Later when the storm calmed down and the fireworks continued we had the terrible view of complete chaos, people still trying to escape, running on the streets through knee-high water. I didn't realize the extent of the storm until afterwards, coming down and seeing injured people, ambulance and police cars through what looked like a devastated town.
Elena Panican, Bucharest, Romania

We were on the hill on a friend's balcony watching the fireworks when suddenly to our right a thunder cloud was approaching with some speed. We were warned by friends 50km away that it was on its way. It hit with high winds and heavy rain. Visibility was about 10 meters in front of us. After it cleared within 20 minutes, visibility of the fireworks was good but at this time we heard of the deaths via a mobile phone. The shock hit home to everyone.
Gareth, Budapest

We were in the thick of the storm. A wind suddenly blew up, and then within moments there were sheets of stinging rain, and the wind was blowing us down the street. The screams of the running crowds, to the backdrop of the continuing fireworks and the howling gale were like an apocalypse, an otherworldly experience. Tiles were falling from the buildings, and fences, chairs and other detritus was being swept down the street. The most unbelievable experience of my life.
Sam Keyes, Worcester, UK

I was near the place where two people were killed by falling trees. When the whole event began the weather was calm and nice, however the wind was quiet strong. The first 10 minutes was OK, but the wind became stronger and a minute later it started to rain. The strong wind (120km/h) sheared the stalls which were set up next to the Danube, and dropped them between the people. Many people were screaming and shouting - it was so frightening! Finally, me and my friends run into a hotel, till that all of my clothes were wet even my underwear! The hotel's staff were very kind, they gave us towels and some hot tea for children. It's similar to the Amercian catastrophe films.
Máté Ritter, Budapest, Hungary

My wife and I took our two children out to watch the fireworks from near our up to Endrodi Sandor as we thought it would end too late to get them home from the city centre. Just before nine, the entire sky was being lit-up by sheet lightning that appeared from every direction and from the thunder we realised it was getting closer. Not long after the display started it started to rain lightly and I walked 5m to the car to get an umbrella. In the few seconds it took to get the umbrella and walk back the heavens opened and we were in the car maybe 30 seconds later. In the short time from the storm hitting, trees had lost branches and the steep road was already a torrent. We returned home laughing at the absurdity of it all and how 'funny' the evening had turned out. It was not until this morning that we had any idea what had happened downtown.
William Norman-Walker, Woking and Budapest

We were on a boat watching the fireworks between the Chain and Elizabeth Bridge. A beautiful and magical evening suddenly turned into a nightmare! Our boat was hit three separate times at no time were there any announcements there seemed to be no regard for the safety of the passengers, particularly the babies and young children on board. It was extremely frightening!
Barbara Lazarus, East Barnet, United Kingdom

I was there, it was horrible, panic everywhere, everybody screaming and running. You can't see this in movies. The worst was the wind, and the panic, we run too, when somebody has stopped before us, we hit him. In fact I think nobody can tell it, what was it like, when 1.5 million people began to run. I thought before, that such scenes can you see only in the cinema, but no. Still can't believe what happened. I never go again to festivals, where more then 100 people are.
Survivor, Budapest, Hungary



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
People flee the storm in Budapest



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Country profile: Hungary
14 Jun 06 |  Country profiles

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