Image: Home destroyed by twister
AP
An injured woman passes by one of the homes hit by a twister overnight in Hautmont, France.
msnbc.com news services
updated 8/4/2008 12:03:12 PM ET 2008-08-04T16:03:12

A fierce but short-lived tornado overnight has left at least three people dead in northern France.

Roughly 40 houses were hit by the freak meteorological event in the town of Hautmont, near the Belgian border. Three dead bodies were pulled from wreckage and six people were slightly injured.

Inhabitants of four regions are assessing the damage after the tornado collapsed some homes and uprooted trees along its path.

The tornado swept through the Lille region's town of Hautmont and three other communities shortly before midnight Sunday.

Police said 13 people were hospitalized for injuries. Three people were injured in the nearby village of Boussieres-sur-Sambre, two of them seriously. Two other towns were also hit by the storm.

In addition, officials said a 76-year-old man whose house was among those destroyed in Hautmont had killed himself, but they could not yet comment on his motive.

Television footage showed one house that appeared to have been sliced in two, with all its floors open to the elements. Bricks and other debris lined the streets.

Emergency services including around 190 firemen searched through the wreckage to see if more people were trapped, the local government for the Nord department said.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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