Torrential rain has caused unprecedented flooding in southeast Europe and widespread destruction prompting evacuations in both residential and tourism areas
Fierce rainstorms battered neighbouring Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria on Tuesday, triggering flooding that caused at least seven deaths, including two holidaymakers swept away by a torrent that raged through a campsite in northwestern Turkey.
Turkish 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 noted that about 12 vacationers were at the site when the waters hit.
Search teams had located two bodies, he said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “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, local media reported.
In Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, heavy rain flooded streets and homes in two neighbourhoods, leaving at least two dead, according to a statement from the governor's office. Around a dozen people were rescued after being stranded inside a library, while some subway stations were shut down. Istanbul Gov. 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, channelled 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 centimetres 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 centimetres.
The country's minister of climate crisis and civil protection, Vassilis Kikilias, said the heavy rain was expected to ease up after midday Wednesday. He advised people in affected areas to stay indoors.
The storm comes on the heels of major summer wildfires that hit Greece over the past few weeks, with some burning for more than two weeks 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 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 blackouts, and authorities warned residents not to drink tap water due to contamination from floodwaters.
High winds sent 2-metre waves crashing onto 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.