Seventeen people were taken to hospital with various injuries Sunday, after a tent at a Whitby, Ont. festival was struck by lightning.

Durham EMS transported the festival goers to two area hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, after a tent at the Whitby Ribfest was hit by lightning around 1:45 p.m.

Earlier on Sunday, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for parts of southern Ontario, including Whitby.

Ribfest organizer Colin O’Regan said a sudden storm moved into the area and gave attendees and organizers little time to react.

The tent that was struck was a dining tent, where attendees were eating their lunch, said O’Regan.

Will Haase, a vendor working at the festival, was about 30 metres away from the tent when the lightning struck.

Haase told CTV News Channel that he felt the ground shake when the lightning hit.

“At first everyone was really scared and then all of a sudden everyone went into a panic and started running out of the tent,” he said.

Haase said that festival organizers on scene tried to help the injured before paramedics arrived.

Steve McNenly, deputy chief of the Durham EMS, told CTV News Channel that more than 10 ambulances and 25 paramedics attended to the injured.

McNenly said all the injured were transported to hospital for observation.

“We certainly don’t expect any significant negative outcome to the people we transported and we’re certainly all very, very happy about that,” he said.

The festival, which was hosted by the Rotary Club of Whitby Sunrise, was held on the Victoria Playing Fields in Iroquois Park, about 45 minutes east of Toronto.

The festival closed early following the incident.