In Germany, 35 people were injured in the western village of Hoppstaedten when lightning struck the pitch at the end of a children’s football match.
Three adults were gravely injured including the referee, who was hit directly and was rushed to hospital by helicopter, DPA news agency reported.
In Paris, 11 people, eight of them children, were injured when lightning struck as they were celebrating a birthday party in Parc Monceau in the city’s northwest.
Paris police said six of the victims were seriously hurt, with three of the children and one adult suffering life-threatening injuries.
The children were around nine years old, fire service spokesman Eric Moulin said, adding that the group had rushed under a tree to shelter when it began to rain.
“It was while they were heading for shelter, when they were still near a tree, that the lightning fell,” Moulin said.
– No warning –
Witnesses to the German lightning strike said it came out of the blue.
“There was no rain and the sky wasn’t dark,” a police spokesman told DPA.
Thirty children aged between nine and 11 were lightly injured and were taken to hospital for tests, along with five adults.
In Paris, fire service spokesman Moulin said it was an off-duty firefighter who had given the first aid, after hearing the commotion and rushing to help.
Emergency services were on the scene, with 29 fire engines mobilised.
The injured were taken to Paris hospitals including Necker hospital, a specialist children’s facility.
Authorities at Necker have set up a psychological and medical support cell to assist the families of the victims.
The area of the park where the lightning struck was fenced off with caution tape, while two kids’ jackets, still soaking wet from the rain, could be seen hanging on the fence.
Local official Vincent Baladi, speaking to iTELE television, said the injuries included burns.
“We hope they will all pull through,” said Baladi, who handles security matters in Paris’ eighth arrondissement where the park is located.
Located in a well-heeled neighbourhood of the city’s northwest, Parc Monceau is popular with families at the weekend.
– ‘Lightning rod effect’ –
While lightning usually strikes individual people, it is possible for whole groups to be struck at once.
Michel Daloz of weather agency Meteo-France told AFP that between 100 and 200 people are struck by lightning every year in the country, killing between 10 and 20 people.
He stressed that people should never head under trees during storms — as the group did in the Parisian park — as they often attract lightning.
“It’s what we call the ‘lightning rod effect’,” said Daloz. In the case of Parc Monceau, he added, “the floor was wet, so it conducted much more strongly.”
Victims of lightning strikes can suffer lasting cardiological and neurological effects, Daloz said.
– Storm alerts –
Storm alerts had been issued for several regions across southern France on Saturday, warning of the possibility of “violent” weather — but Paris, to the north, was not on the list.
Torrential rain had halted play at the French Open in Paris for more than two and a half hours on Saturday afternoon.
Weather authorities in Germany had also issued storm alerts for the country’s west and south on Saturday.
Storm Elvira had already hit the west on Friday, bringing torrential rain and hail and flooding roads in some areas.
In Rhineland-Palatinate, the state where Hoppstaedten is located, bad weather caused a train to derail on Friday, but there were no injuries.