Violent thunderstorms and hurricane-force winds left at least seven people dead in France and Italy, uprooting trees in Tuscany and on the French island of Corsica and ripping away brick shards from St Mark’s famed bell tower in Venice.
Elsewhere, dozens of boats in the Mediterranean Sea called for emergency help.
The storm produced gusts of more than 136mph in some areas, the national weather agency Meteo France said.
Dozens were injured and 12 were hospitalised in Corsica, one person critically, authorities said. About 45,000 households were without power on the island.
Storms in recent days have slammed Western European countries after a summer of extreme weather, while neighbours in central and eastern Europe are still suffering exceptional heatwaves and drought.
Two people were killed in separate incidents in Tuscany when trees were ripped up by storms on Thursday, one near the city of Lucca and another near Carrara. Another four people were injured by falling trees at a campsite near Carrara.
In Corsica, a 13-year-old girl died after a tree fell in a campsite in the coastal town of Sagone. A 72-year-old woman was killed when a beach restaurant roof fell on her vehicle in Coggia, and a 46-year-old man died in a campsite in the town of Calvi.
Rescue crews found the bodies of a 62-year-old fisherman and an unidentified kayaker off Corsica’s west and east coasts, according to the French maritime authority for the Mediterranean.
It said both had died as a result of the sudden storm and that more than 100 grounded, wrecked or stranded ships in the area had called for emergency help.
French interior minister Gerald Darmanin travelled to the island on Thursday.
In Venice, high winds detached pieces of brick from St Mark’s bell tower, which stands in front of the famed cathedral. Tourists were evacuated from the structure, which was cordoned off. The storm upended chairs and tables in St Mark’s Square and elsewhere, and swept away beach chairs on the nearby Lido.
Winds rose suddenly and calmed within five minutes, Carlo Alberto Tesserin, the caretaker of the Basilica and bell tower, said.
“These were not usual winds for us,” he told The Associated Press.
In northern Italy, an overnight storm forced the closures of a train line southeast of Genoa after high winds carried beach structures onto the tracks, damaging the electrical circuitry.
The storm struck during Italy’s busiest beach holiday week.
The mayor of Sestri Levanti, Valentina Ghio, warned that whirlwinds were possible and appealed to visitors to stay away from beaches until the severe weather had passed.
Hail the size of walnuts pummelled Italy’s Liguria region with enough force to break the windows of homes and damage orchards and gardens.
While northern Italy has suffered its worst drought in decades this year, heavy rains in recent days that brought scattered hailstorms, whirlwinds and flooding have damaged or destroyed entire crops of fruits and vegetables along with vineyards and olive orchards, according to the Italian agricultural lobby Coldiretti.
Thunderstorms on Wednesday flooded Paris underground stations and the Old Port of Marseille, and winds over 60mph were recorded at the top of the Eiffel Tower during a flash flood on Tuesday.
The fierce rains come amid a summer of drought, heatwaves and forest fires across Europe that scientists link to climate change.