Macedonia storms kill at least 20

2016-08-07 16:20
(Robert Atanasovski, AFP)

(Robert Atanasovski, AFP)

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Skopje - Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said on Sunday.

The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70km/h and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents.

Property damage

Weather officials said the average rainfall for the whole of August fell on Skopje in the space of just two hours.

Local media reported that about 100 others suffered injuries, most of them minor, while a hospital source said that an eight-year-old girl was among the dead.

An emergency was declared in Skopje and certain parts of the northwestern city of Tetovo, where heavy storms caused property damage but no casualties.

"This is a disaster, we have never experienced such a thing," said Skopje's Mayor Koce Trajanovski.

Reports said the water level reached as high as 1.5m in some areas, which were being combed by Macedonia's police and army for survivors and other victims.

Especially badly hit were villages on the outskirts of the capital including Smilkovci, Singelic, Stajkovci and Aracinovo.

"Everything was a mess. Televisions, the fridge, the sofa, everything was floating... it was a nightmare," said Baze Spriovski, a 43-year-old in Singelic, who remained without electricity.

Holiday spot

Meteorologists said more than 800 lightning strikes were recorded in the first two hours of the storm, which went on for about five hours in total.

Municipal authorities urged people to avoid going out in the streets, especially driving, with several roads of the capital still flooded and traffic interrupted on the city's ring road.

Severe thunderstorms also affected the holiday spot of Lake Ohrid in the southwest.

Skopje previously suffered disastrous flooding in 1962, a year before a huge earthquake that almost destroyed the city.

In the spring of 2014, the Balkans region was hit by its worst floods in more than a century, which left 47 people dead in Serbia and Bosnia.

A total of 1.6 million people were affected.

Read more on:    macedonia  |  weather

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