Strong storm hits northern Greece, killing six, injuring dozens
At least six people have lost their lives when a strong storm struck the Halkidiki Peninsula in northern Greece, near the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki.
The storm hit northern Greece on Wednesday evening, leaving at least six people dead, dozens injured and a fisherman missing, as well as material damages, the country’s fire service and national news agency AMNA reported
No information on the nationalities of the victims was given, while local media reported they were tourists on vacation in seaside resorts.
A tourist and an 8-year-old child from Romania were killed due to the collapse of a restaurant roof, and an elderly Czech couple died when their caravan was swept away by water and gale-force winds.
Additionally, a 39-year-old Russian visitor and his 2-year-old child were killed by a falling tree outside a hotel.
The number of injuries has not yet been disclosed, while local media claimed there were more than 100, including a woman hospitalized in serious condition.
The fire service received about 600 calls for help to assist stranded motorists, pump up water from houses and clear trees and electricity pylons toppled by winds, and several communities were affected by power outages.
After a 63-year-old fisherman was reported missing, the Coast Guard also launched a rescue operation in the sea area off the peninsula to locate him.
Since meteorologists warned that more storms may hit northern Greece in the coming hours, a state of emergency has been declared for Halkidiki, with ministers and other officials being dispatched to supervise emergency operations.
Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis, who arrived at the affected area on Thursday, expressed sorrow over the loss of lives and injuries, on behalf of the administration which just took office on Tuesday following the parliamentary elections last week.
Chrysochoidis promised that the government will act quickly to treat the injured.
“We have never witnessed something like this here,” said Athanasios Kaltsas, head of a local medical center where at least 60 injuried people were treated.
“The region has not been hit by such strong winds in the past century. It was like a bomb blast. There are many material damages as well,” Grigoris Tassios, president of Halkidiki’s Hotel Association, told local One channel TV.
“Everything happened within 10 minutes,” Efthymios Lekkas, president of Greece’s Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, told a local radio station.
“We should see how (to make) Greek citizens and foreigners visiting Greece receive the future messages in their mobiles alerting the public of such weather conditions,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told the radio station.
The storms came after intense heatwaves scorched Greece for days. According to the national observatory, 5,058 lightning bolts were recorded across the country on Wednesday evening, and winds were blowing up to 10 on the Beaufort scale in the north.
Strong winds also fanned the flames of a wildfire which broke out during the night and triggered the evacuation of 250 minors from two recreation camps. The fire was eventually extinguished by firemen with help from some rain, according to the fire service.