05 September 2023

At least seven dead after severe rainstorms trigger flooding across Europe

05 September 2023

Fierce rainstorms have battered neighbouring Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, triggering flooding that caused at least five deaths, including those of two holidaymakers swept away by a torrent which raged through a campsite.

Turkish interior minister Ali Yerlikaya said four other people were missing after the flash flood swept over the campsite in the Kirklareli province, near the border with Bulgaria.

He said about 12 tourists were at the site when the waters hit.

Search teams had found two bodies, he said on Twitter, now known as X.

“The search and rescue efforts for the missing (four) continue uninterrupted,” he added.

Television footage showed rescuers carrying a young girl and an adult to safety from waters reaching waist-high in some areas.

The rains also damaged and forced the closure of a main road, HaberTurk television reported.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, heavy rain flooded streets and homes in two neighbourhoods, leaving at least two people dead, the governor’s office said.

About a dozen people were rescued after being stranded inside a library, while some subway stations were shut down.

Istanbul governor Davut Gul urged motorcyclists to stay home.

In Greece, police banned traffic in the central town of Volos, the nearby mountain region of Pilion and the resort island of Skiathos as record rainfall caused at least one death, channeled thigh-high torrents through streets and swept cars away.

The fire service said a man was killed near Volos when a wall buckled and fell on him.

Five people were reported missing, possibly swept away by floodwater.

Authorities sent mobile phone alerts in several other areas of central Greece, the Sporades island chain and the island of Evia warning people to limit their movements outdoors.

Streams overflowed their banks and swept cars into the sea in the Pilion area, while rockfalls blocked roads, a small bridge was carried away and many areas suffered power cuts.

Greece’s minister for civil protection, Vassilis Kikilias, said the storms were forecast to ease after noon on Wednesday and urged people in afflicted areas to stay indoors.

“According to meteorologists, it’s the most extreme event as far as maximum rainfall in a day is concerned since record-keeping started,” he said, adding that in one part of Pilion 6.45cm (2.5in) of rain had fallen by early afternoon.

Mr Kikilias said rainfall was forecast to intensify later on Tuesday and again on Wednesday morning after a brief respite overnight.

Greece’s weather service said the Pilion region could get about 6.5-7cm (2.5-2.8in) of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, while 5-6cm were forecast for the central town of Karditsa.

It noted that the average annual rainfall in the Athens region is around 40cm.

The storm comes on the heels of major summer wildfires that hit Greece over the past few weeks, with some burning for more than a fortnight and destroying vast tracts of forest and farmland.

More than 20 people were killed in the fires.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed both the wildfires and storms on climate change, while conceding that his centre-right government “clearly didn’t manage things as well as we would have liked” on the wildfire front.

“I am afraid that the careless summers, as we knew them … will cease to exist and from now on the coming summers are likely to be ever more difficult,” he said on Tuesday.

Farther north in Bulgaria, Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov said two people died and three others were missing after a storm caused floods on the country’s southern Black Sea coast.

Overflowing rivers caused severe damage to roads and bridges. The area also suffered power cuts and authorities warned residents not to drink tap water due to contamination from floodwater.

High winds sent twp-metre (six-foot) waves crashing on to beaches at tourist resorts amid torrential rain that flooded streets and houses.

TV footage showed cars and camper vans being swept out to sea in the hardest-hit southern resort town of Tsarevo.

Authorities declared a state of emergency in Tsarevo and urged people to move upstairs as the ground floors of some hotels were inundated.

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