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Germany storms: Six dead in North Rhine-Westphalia

media captionEssen and Oberhausen were hit by heavy rains and thunderstorms

Six people have been killed in violent storms which battered cities in western Germany overnight.

In the worst incident, three died when a tree fell on a garden shed in Duesseldorf where they had sought shelter, emergency services said.

Cyclists were also killed by falling trees in Cologne and Krefeld and a sixth person died while clearing a street in Essen.

The storms ended a heatwave that lasted throughout the Whitsun weekend holiday.

image copyrightAFP
image captionSome of the worst disruption was in Duesseldorf where transport was badly hit
image copyrightAP
image captionPolice said two men and a woman were killed when a garden shed was destroyed by a tree

Public transport was badly hit in much of North Rhine-Westphalia on Tuesday morning, and authorities urged people to avoid Duesseldorf, where trains, roads and the airport were all affected.

During the night, emergency services removed the bodies of three people from a garden shed in the city. Three other people who had taken refuge in the shed were injured, two of them seriously. Several others were hurt elsewhere in the city.

Two red pandas were reported missing from a zoo in Gelsenkirchen in the aftermath of the storm, with one since recovered and receiving medical assistance for shock, zoo officials said.

Local residents have been asked to notify the zoo if they spot the remaining missing panda.

Streets in Duesseldorf were blocked by fallen trees and there was damage to overhead power lines. The tram system was reportedly suspended.

There were traffic jams on 270km (165 miles) of the region's roads during the morning rush hour, local broadcasters reported.

Winds of up to 150km/h (93mph) were recorded at Duesseldorf airport on Tuesday night. Forecasters predict the storm will continue to move to the south and south-east of the country over the next two days, reports say.

"We must reckon that the total damage will run into double-digit millions," North Rhine-Westphalia's Interior Minister Ralf Jaeger told German media. "That was one of the worst storms to hit (the region) in the past 20 years."

Lower Saxony to the north has also suffered heavy damage.

Temperatures of up to 36C (97F) were recorded in Germany at the weekend, the highest ever recorded for the time of year.

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe heatwave brought record temperatures in parts of Germany during the holiday weekend
image copyrightAFP
image captionThe storm was set to reach other areas of Germany later on Tuesday
image copyrightReuters
image captionFive of the deaths were caused by falling trees

Are you in Germany? Have you been affected by the storms? You can email using 'storms' in the subject.

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