Blast: A lightning storm lights up the skies above southern Sardinia creating the impression of a nuclear mushroom cloud
Residents of the normally-sunny island of Sardinia could have been forgiven for running for the hills when this terrifying mushroom cloud appeared in the skies during an intense thunderstorm.

But while it may look like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion the awesome cloud was a purely natural phenomenon - a giant storm cell lit up from the inside by a series of lightning bolts.

The stunning set of photographs was taken by 27-year-old photographer Stefano Garau who captured the incredible moment from the balcony of his house after noticing the storm moving in fast.

Thundercrack: A lightning bolt streaks over the skies in southern Sardinia. The incredible images were captured by 27-year-old photographer Stefano Garau
Mr Garau said: 'The photo is taken from my home, I was lucky to notice in time that the storm cell was throwing in that direction. I had time to do about 70 shots, the photo is taken with my faithful Nikon D700 with a Nikon 105mm VR lens.

'Every shot had a pose of 10 seconds, then I worked in post production photos to merge and show the most visible lightning. My other photos are taken with wide angle lenses because the lightning was at a close distance.

'Sardinia is hit by heavy storms from late August until November and I had the good fortune to be able to capture shots of the immense lightning. Being able to capture lightning is an incredible feeling because you never know from which direction it may arise.

'If the bolts fall in the frame it is a bit like winning the lottery - one night I managed to capture four strokes of lightning in four different shots.'

Photographer Stefano Garau took the electric photographs from the balcony of his house after noticing the storm moving in fast

The tip of a bolt of lightning appears to touch down in the sea just off the coast of Southern Sardinia in another of photographer Stefano Garau's awesome pictures

Eerie: The mushroom cloud looms over the hills of southern Sardinia