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summer storms Thunder and lightning lash large parts of Switzerland

Bolt of lightning over the city of Zurich

Heavy thunderstorms are not a new phenomenon in Switzerland as this picture from 2006 proves. Lightning striking the city of Zurich.

(Keystone/Alessandro Della Bella)

Heavy thunderstorms have hit regions north of the Alps, temporarily interrupting flights from the country’s main airport and prompting the shutdown of a nuclear reactor.

More than 16,000 lighting bolts were recorded in central and north-eastern regions during the night from Monday into Tuesday, according to the SRF weather service. The weather front also brought a massive downpour of rain, notably in eastern Switzerland.

There are no reports of major damage so far.

Flights out of Zurich were delayed and two planes bound for the Netherlands and for Portugal were struck by lightning shortly after take-off. They returned safely to Zurich, according to the Swiss International Airlineexternal link.

The Beznau nuclear power plant 30km north-west of Zurich was also struck by lightning. The Swiss nuclear safety inspectorateexternal link said one of the reactors automatically shut down while energy output was temporarily reduced from the second reactor.

Weather experts say the number of lightning bolts is an indication of the intensity of a thunderstorm, but most bolts discharge their electricity in the clouds and don’t reach the ground.

Last night’s storm is considered intense but not exceptional during the hot season.

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