At least six foreign nationals, including two children, have been killed and dozens of other people injured after a fierce storm raged over northern Greece, flipping over vehicles, snapping trees and collapsing roofs.
Authorities said the deaths occurred late on Wednesday in three separate incidents in the Halkidiki region, a popular tourist destination during the summer months that is dotted with seaside resorts.
The victims included a 54-year-old woman and an eight-year-old boy, both of whom were from Romania, who were fatally wounded after a roof collapsed on a restaurant in Nea Plagia. A Czech couple also died when strong winds blew their caravan away in Sozopoli, while a Russian man and his son were killed by a falling tree in Nea Potidea, police said.
“Six tourists were killed and at least 30 people were injured during this cyclone,” Charalambos Steriadis, head of civil protection in northern Greece, said.
The freak storm only lasted about 20 minutes, according to witnesses interviewed by state television ERT.
Streets in towns in the area were dotted with uprooted pine trees and overturned motorcycles, local media reported.
Authorities declared Halkidiki in a state of emergency, and Greece’s newly appointed citizens’ protection minister visited early on Thursday. At least 140 firefighters were operating in the area.
“It is the first time in my 25-year career that I have lived through something like this,” Athansios Kaltsas, director of the Nea Moudania Medical Centre, where many of the injured were treated for fractures, told Greek television.
“It was so abrupt, and so sudden,” he said.
Kaltsas said patients taken to the clinic ranged in age from eight months to over 70 years old. Some suffered head injuries from trees and other falling objects.
At least 140 rescue workers were involved in the operation, emergency chief Vassilis Varthakoyannis said.
Such severe weather is unusual in Greece, where summers are typically hot and dry. Meteorologist Klearxos Marousakis described conditions as “extremely unusual” for this time of year.
Meteorologists forecast it would continue to rain in the area until about 9am (06:00 GMT) on Thursday.
The storms came after temperatures in Greece soared to 37 degrees Celcius over the past two days.