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Thursday, April 18, 2024

At Least 7 People Dead as Floods Ravage Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria

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Severe rainstorms have battered neighboring Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, triggering flooding that caused at least seven deaths, including two holidaymakers swept away by a torrent that raged through a campsite in northwestern Turkey.

The floods also damaged roads, bridges, homes and infrastructure, and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people in the affected areas. The heavy rains, which started on Sunday and continued until Tuesday, were the worst in years and affected several regions in the three countries.

In Turkey, Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya said four other people were missing after the flash flood swept over the campsite in Kirklareli province, near the border with Bulgaria. He said about 12 vacationers were at the site when the waters hit. Search teams had located two bodies, he said on X.

In Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, two people died after rain flooded streets and homes in two neighborhoods. Around a dozen people were rescued after being stranded inside a library, while some subway stations were shut down.

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 department said one man was killed near Volos when a wall buckled and fell on him. Five people were reported missing, possibly swept away by floodwaters.

Authorities sent cellphone 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 electricity cuts. Authorities evacuated a retirement home in the city of Volos as a precaution.

Greece’s weather service said a Pilion region village received 75.4 centimeters (nearly 30 inches) of rain late Tuesday, by far the highest level recorded since at least 2006. It noted that the average annual rainfall in the Athens region is around 40 centimeters (15.75 inches).

In Bulgaria, two people died after heavy rain caused landslides and flooding in several regions. A 61-year-old woman was found dead in her flooded home in the town of Elena, while a 62-year-old man died after his car was buried under a landslide near the town of Tvarditsa.

The Bulgarian authorities declared a state of emergency in five regions and urged people to avoid traveling unless necessary. The floods also damaged crops and livestock, and disrupted water and power supplies.

The storm was caused by a cut-off low phenomenon, also known as weatherman’s woe, which is a low-pressure system that becomes isolated from the main jet stream and remains stationary over an area for a long time. The storm was moving away from the region late Tuesday and lowered its alert level for some areas.

The leaders of Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria expressed their condolences to the families of the victims and their solidarity with those affected by the floods. They also thanked the emergency services for their work and urged people to “continue to behave with caution”.

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