Powerful storm sweeps Balkans region after days of heat, killing at least 5 people
ZAGREB, Croatia — A powerful storm hit the Balkans with strong winds and heavy rain Wednesday, July 19, killing at least five people in Croatia, Bosnia, and Slovenia and injuring dozens, police and local media outlets said.
The storm was the second in two days to sweep over the region following a string of extremely hot and dry days. Elsewhere in Europe, a continuing heat wave caused wildfires and public health warnings.
Two men died in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, after they were hit by falling trees, Croatian police said. A 50-year-old man was struck while outside in the street, and a 48-year-old man was in his car, a police statement said. Earlier, emergency doctor Ljupka Hitrova told the official Hina news agency that the two victims had multiple head injuries.
The civil protection service in eastern Croatia reported that one person died when a tree fell on their car in the town of Cernik.
Elsewhere in Zagreb, a 36-year-old man was severely injured when a construction crane collapsed, the police statement said.
The storm suddenly darkened the sky and brought blinding rain, flash floods, and winds across Zagreb starting at about 4 p.m. It halted the city’s transportation, caused power outages, and left streets blocked with fallen trees.
Zagreb’s emergency services asked citizens to be patient as hundreds of calls for help came in at once.
“We are appealing to the citizens to call only if in a life-threatening situation or of utmost necessity until the situation stabilizes,” Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomasevic said on Twitter.
A similar situation was reported in neighboring Slovenia, where high wind toppled trees and blew off roofs.
Public broadcaster RTV Slovenia reported that one person was killed and another was injured when a tree fell on them in the Lake Bled area. One person also died in Bosnia, and at least 20 were injured, authorities there said.
Authorities in Serbia issued a warning to citizens as the storm moved east. Wind gusts swooshed through Belgrade, the capital, on Wednesday evening, swirling leaves and dust as people scattered to seek protection.
Parts of the city were left without electricity, and the Belgrade airport temporarily closed down. A video posted on social media showed a huge crane falling.
Elsewhere in Serbia, residents reported cracked trees, falling bricks and torn off roofs. A 12-year-old girl was hospitalized after a tree fell on her in the northern city of Novi Sad, doctors said.
A powerful storm that brought relief from days of hot weather late Tuesday also caused chaos in Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia, tearing roofs off buildings and causing power outages.
Emergency services in the three countries reported hundreds of interventions as the storm swept through the region.
The greatest damage was inflicted on high-altitude forests, the official STA news agency reported. Authorities warned climbers in the Alpine country to stay away from those areas.