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Last Updated: Monday, 9 June, 2003, 14:57 GMT 15:57 UK
German storms leave 12 dead
Man inspects flooded car in Hamburg, northern Germany
The storms have caused severe damage across the country
Severe weather in Germany has left at least a dozen people dead and many others injured after high winds and thunderstorms swept across the country.

Those killed included a five-year-old British girl, who was swept away by a helium balloon at a British military show in western Germany.

Her body was found about 70 kilometres (45 miles) away.

At least two people were crushed by falling branches from trees as winds of up to 133 km/hour wreaked havoc.

Six people were also reported dead in car accidents across the country, including four in one accident after the driver lost control in heavy rain and veered into oncoming traffic, the French news agency AFP reported.

Lightning was also reported to have sparked several fires while hailstorms caused millions of euros worth of damage.

Party injuries

A paraglider was killed after strong winds blew him off course and sent him crashing to the ground near Waldeck in Hesse.

At a music festival in the town of Bernkastel a Hungarian musician died after being struck by a falling tree branch at the end of a concert.

At Berlin's Carnival of Cultures street party three people sustained life-threatening injuries when a piece of scaffolding fell on them.

And a 65-year-old man died after high winds blew over his motor home on the North Sea island of Sylt.

'Freakish' weather

The British child died at a British military show at Rheindalen, near Moenchengladbach.

Balloon wreckage
Germany authorities say they will investigate the young girl's death

The weather was fine, until a sudden storm caused huge gusts of wind and large hailstones, which caused furniture to be hurled across the showground, witnesses told the BBC.

The balloon was then torn from its anchors and lifted up into the air, with the young girl in the process becoming entangled in its ropes.

The German authorities began a search and police in Hamminkeln, near Wesel - about 70 km (45 miles) away from the site - soon reported they had found the balloon and the child's body.

An investigation into the incident is underway.

"The investigation will look at a number of issues including whether the correct safety procedures were followed," British military spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Helen Wildman said.

"Having said that, the weather was so freakish that I'm not sure if anything could have prevented it, but that is for the investigation to say."

The BBC's June Kelly
"In heavy rain and high winds the balloon broke free from its mooring"

Severe weather batters France
05 Jan 03  |  Europe
Germany braces for more floods
19 Aug 02  |  Europe

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