The Greek government declared a state of emergency for the northern Greece region of Halkidiki after gale-force winds stormed through on Wednesday night, leaving at least seven people dead and dozens injured.
Rescue workers and the armed forces are making efforts to clear out the debris and restore electricity to the area after strong winds, torrential rain and hailstorms led to power outages in most of the Halkidiki region, leaving behind downed trees, overturned cars and collapsed buildings.
Visiting Halkidiki, Greek Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said crews were working to restore damages and electricity to the affected areas.
Heading civil protection in Central Macedonia, Charalambos Stergiadis described the flash storm as an “unprecedented phenomenon”. According to reports, gusts reached 100km/h combined with very high temperatures similar to extreme weather also plaguing other parts of Europe, including southern France and Italy.
“Halkidiki has not seen such phenomena over the past decades… the area has been declared in a state of emergency since yesterday,” said Central Macedonia Regional Governor Apostolos Tzitzikostas, during an emergency meeting, adding that “we had timely warned through the press that the bad weather was coming, because it was unprecedented.”
The fatalities, including two children, were from Romania, the Czech Republic and Russia.
Dozens suffering from extreme weather-related injuries were transferred to Thessaloniki’s Papanikolaou Hospital and to Gennimatas Hospital.
Speaking on television, Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said no interior damage was found at hotels in Halkidiki, while a specialized crew was currently assessing all tourism enterprises, adding that travelers can continue their holidays as the extreme weather has subsided.
Theocharis went on to underline the importance of launching a safety system that will notify travelers through real-time alerts of potential dangers including natural disasters, accidents, unrest, and travel delays.
Government Spokesman Stelios Petsas said the government would be approving subsidies for the three affected Halkidiki municipalities.
It should be noted that local environmental groups have repeatedly been calling on the Greek government and political parties to take immediate action and move swiftly ahead with the implementation of measures against global warming, demanding a “climate emergency” be declared following in the footsteps of the British, Scottish, Welsh and Irish parliaments, which have adopted corresponding resolutions.