THESSALONIKI, Greece (AP) — A violent storm tore through seaside resorts in northern Greece Wednesday, killing six tourists. A fisherman, who had been missing, was also found dead Thursday taking the death toll to seven. A state of emergency has been declared.
Powerful gale force winds late Wednesday hammered the Halkidiki Peninsula causing trees and power pylons to snap, tossing vehicles, and turning beach lounge chairs into flying projectiles, leaving swathes of debris across the coastline.
According to authorities 22 people remain hospitalized, including a woman in critical condition, and more than 100 others received medical attention. Six of the dead were tourists: two each from Russia, the Czech Republic, and Romania.
Two were killed when high winds overturned their recreational vehicle. An 8-year-old boy and his mother were killed when an outdoor restaurant’s lean-to roof collapsed. Another two were killed by falling trees.
The storm occurred nearly a year after a wildfire near Athens killed at least 100 people during a heatwave, and prompted concern over more frequent damaging weather events.
The storm in Halkidiki was the first major event to be addressed by the country’s new conservative government following a general election Sunday. The army was ordered to help civilian agencies restore power and running water to damaged areas and end road closures and disruptions to rail services.
The widespread damage caused by the storm this week has renewed calls from civil protection experts, environmental groups, and the country’s Orthodox Church for a shift in policies to address the impact of climate change on Greece’s coastline terrain.
“From now on, these phenomena will occur with increasing frequency, especially in the Mediterranean area which is sensitive to climate change,” Efthymis Lekkas, a professor at Athens University’s Department of Geology and Geo-environment, who heads a public agency for earthquake and disaster planning, told state-run TV.
“We must definitely adapt our civil protection plans and incorporate updated scientific knowledge and know-how to deal with these phenomena.”