NEWSFLASH: Lightning Strike Kills at Least 3 in Polish Tatra Mountains

Lightning struck a 15 metre high metal cross that marks the summit of Poland's Giewont summit (1,894m). Initial reports on the BBC website and other media outlets suggest that at least 3 people have been killed and 22 injured in the strike. As of 22:45, that number has risen to 5 fatalities.

Queueing for the summit of Giewont  © sam_owen41
Queueing for the summit of Giewont
© sam_owen41, Aug 2011

The Tatra Mountains create a natural border between Poland and Slovakia, rising at their highest to an elevation of 2,655 metres and attract tourists from all around Europe. Giewont summit is one the area's most popular hikes on the Polish side with crowds reaching their peak during the months of July and August. At the time of the strike, a crowd that included children was gathered near the cross.

"Probably lightning struck the cross on Giewont, then passed along the chains. People fell to the south side of the mountain. At some point, dozens of people were injured under the dome. The rescue operation continues and it is not known how many people still need help in this difficult situation," said the Chief of TOPR (Tatra Volunteer Rescue Service) Jan Krzystof. The footpath has since been closed until further notice.

Update 22:45:

A report from The Mountain Rescue Service of Slovakia provided the information that among the victims, "there is one fatality on the Slovak side of the Tatras and four on the Polish side of the Tatras. More than 89 people have been wounded, many in critical condition. Among the fatalities are children, a 10-year-old girl and a 13-year-old boy." The Airborne Ambulance Service dispatched four helicopters to the scene to evacuate those in critical condition and help in the search for any remaining survivors, as well as 100 volunteer rescuers from two areas.

Additional locations were struck as rescue teams were rushing to help those injured. In the Banik Area two Czech hikers were struck and during their rescue operation the TOPR volunteers received a call from a Slovak team in the Spalena Area. A Slovak man lost consciousness after being struck and has since become paralysed. The patient was treated by a doctor before being transported by helicopter to Ziarska Valley.

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22 Aug

Number is apparently 5 now. Very sad. I have been up there, and even if you had a few minutes advance warning, as I recall you have to single-file it out (there is a one-way route up and one-way down).

22 Aug

I'm not sure that NEWSFLASH was the best choice of word.

22 Aug

Latest reports and Polish news put the numbers as five dead (both Polish and Slovak side combined) and more than 30 injured, some credible sources talking even about 140 injured...

Very grim news from the Tatras.

Good grief. Tragic news.

22 Aug

According to the BBC report the strike passed down the chains used on the route hence the very high number of casualties.

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