MOSCOW • A violent storm has swept through the Moscow area , leaving 16 people dead and dozens injured as freak winds toppled hundreds of trees.
Pictures posted on social media showed uprooted trees, shattered bus shelters and a construction crane that blew over in the storm on Monday.
It was the deadliest weather event in the Russian capital in at least 19 years, according to the Interfax news service.
Investigators said that the victims were mostly killed by falling trees and various structures, including a bus shelter.
The injured were being treated at 10 different medical facilities in the capital, the local health department said, warning that the death toll could rise.
Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the tragedy "is unprecedented". "It's due to the fact that the storm hit in the middle of the day, which is why there is such a large number of victims," he said.
The authorities provided alerts to residents via messages sent to mobile phones, although many Moscow residents complained on social media that they had not been properly warned.
Some pedestrians were caught outside, running in panic for whatever shelter could be found as shorn tree limbs blew around on the streets.
Russia's chief meteorologist Roman Vilfand warned that similar bursts of strong wind might continue for a day or so, as the cold front had a zigzagging leading edge, or area of sharp temperature difference known as an isotherm.
The weather caused delays at Moscow's airports, and the express train service to Vnukovo airport was halted as workers removed a tree from the line.
Mr Vilfand told Interfax the strongest confirmed wind velocity was 78kmh he said, but an unconfirmed report from an instrument at the Vnukovo airport registered a gust of 103kmh.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, NYTIMES, BLOOMBERG, REUTERS