The tornado hit a number of towns in the Hodonin district in South Moravia, including Moravska Nova Ves and Hrusky, leaving wreckage in its wake.
It formed late on Thursday during a series of strong thunderstorms that hit the entire country. Extremely strong winds of F3-F4 levels (speeds of 158-260mph) and tennis ball-sized hailstones also caused significant damage in the Hodonin district.
Video footage shared to social media shows funnel clouds and the impact of strong winds, as well as the resulting damage – destroyed buildings and cars, fires with thick black smoke, piles of rubble.
Michaela Bothová, a spokesperson for the South Moravian rescue service, told Czech TV that 63 people had been taken to hospital by medical services, 10 of whom had severe injuries. Four later died.
She said that dozens of people had also sought medical assistance on their own accord, estimating that the number of injured people to be between 100 and 150, “ranging from children to senior citizens”.
Hedvika KropáÄková from the south Moravian rescue service told The Independent:“The number of casualties will rise still further because many people were injured during the night and have only just contacted the emergency services.”
On Twitter, the Czech interior minister, Jan Hamacek, said: “All available rescue units are in action or moving to the Hodonin region where several municipalities have been hit by a tornado.”
More than 550 firefighters and 360 police officers were sent to the area to assist the military in the search-and-rescue operation. Rescue services from nearby Austria and Slovakia also took part, and drones and helicopters are being used to search the rubble.
The tornado’s impact caused extensive power outages, leaving more than 120,000 households without electricity.
Many also faced traffic disruption as fallen trees and power lines blocked major motorways throughout the southeast of the country, including the highway connecting Prague with Bratislava, the Slovakian capital.
Marek Babisz, the deputy mayor of Hrusky, told Czech news agency CTK that half of his town was almost completely destroyed. “The church is without the tower, the elementary school has no roof and insulation anymore, only walls remained from what were houses. They’re injured, it’s really terrible.”
Irena KoÄí, a resident of Hodonín , told The Independent: “Villages in the surrounding area bore the brunt of the tornado, and since this morning, Hodonín has been filled with a huge number of emergency service workers.
“Help has also been provided by great local citizens. But a lot of buildings have been really badly affected, here and in other villages in the surrounding area. Around 35 buildings in our town have been damaged and more in the nearby villages.”
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was the most terrible thing I have ever experienced. We watched the tornado from our balcony; it passed around 200 metres away from us.
“Debris fell in our garden, and now we have no electricity and no phone signal. But the situation is far worse for others nearby - we were very fortunate.”
A retirement home and local zoo were also destroyed in what was the strongest and deadliest weather event in Europe so far this year, according to the European Severe Weather Database, and may have been the strongest tornado in the Czech Republic’s history.
It follows a tornado that touched down in Poland on Thursday, which injured one person and caused damage to property.