A tornado has swept through the western German city of Paderborn, injuring at least 30 people as it blew away roofs, toppled trees and sent debris flying for miles.
Meteorologists had warned that heavy rainfall and hail were expected in western and central Germany on Friday, with storms producing gusts up to 81mph.
Storms on Thursday had already disrupted traffic, uprooted trees that toppled on to railway tracks and roads, and flooded hundreds of basements in western Germany.
“30 to 40 injured, at least 10 of them seriously,” Paderborn police said after the tornado.
They urged people to remain in their houses so as not to hamper rescue efforts or endanger themselves.
Heavy storm damage was also reported in the nearby town of Lippstadt. A church steeple in the town was toppled and the German news agency dpa reported that more than 100 people were temporarily trapped in a local open air pool after fallen trees blocked the exit.
The regional fire service said all available rescuers were being deployed to the area.
Police said two French citizens died after their motorised paraglider was caught by a strong gust of wind shortly after taking off on Thursday from an airfield in Ballenstedt, 109 miles south west of Berlin.
Police in Saxony-Anhalt state said the pair, both 59, were urged to land because of a forecast for an abrupt change in the weather.
Shortly after the warning, “they appear to have been hit by a gust of wind that caused the paraglider to collapse, and the air vehicle crashed on to a field from a height of about 40 metres (131 feet)”, police said.
Schools in the western city of Cologne closed before midday to give students time to make it home safely before the storms hit.
Further south in Ahrweiler county, all schools were closed on Friday. More than 130 people were killed in the region last summer after it was hit by a flash flood in July.