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Storms and landslides claim lives in Slovenia, Austria

August 7, 2023

Slovenia, Austria and Croatia grapple with deadly storms and landslides. At least seven people have died after extreme weather hit the region, causing power outages and travel delays.

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A view of a damaged building in a flooded area in Slovenia, following heavy rains
Unrelenting rain had caused the banks of the Sava, Drava and Mura rivers in Slovenia to burst and lakes to overflowImage: Fedja Grulovic/REUTERS

Rescue workers tackled extreme weather on Monday in Slovenia, Austria and Croatia, with record floods, hundreds of landslides and at least seven deaths.

The storms have forced the evacuation of villages and caused major damage, with emergency crews braced to respond to landslides and potential dam bursts.

Flooding and lightning prove fatal

Most of the deaths recorded so far have been in Slovenia, where the extreme weather was reported to have killed at least six people by Monday.

They included two Dutch men believed to have been struck by lightning and four Slovenians thought to have been caught up in the flooding.

The natural disaster is the worst that Slovenia has seen since it gained independence in 1991. Prime Minister Robert Golob said the estimated damage ran at some €500 million ($548.3 million), and urged the European Union and NATO to provide help.

Experts say the conditions are partly fueled by climate change, which is linked to an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events.

Across the border in Austria, one woman was reported to have died after falling into the flooded Glan River in the southern village of Zollfeld.

The Austrian province of Carinthia had reported 80 major landslides by Sunday afternoon, while the neighboring province of Styria recorded 280 landslides by Sunday morning.

Clean-up efforts amid floods in Croatia, with rescue workers bringing a dog to safety
Rescuers have mobilized in Croatia to help those affected by high waters, but the situation there is milder in comparison to SloveniaImage: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL/picture alliance

In Croatia, roads, fields, and settlements were flooded, with a state of emergency declared in various parts of the country.

Sandbags were used as makeshift dams to prevent major damage to residential buildings.

The situation was expected to ease in all three countries with authorities saying water levels were expected to drop on Monday.

Slovenia devastated by severe flooding

Rainstorms wreak havoc further north

There was also stormy weather further north around the Baltic Sea region, resulting in airport delays, suspended ferries, and minor power outages.

Ferries between Poland and Sweden, from the German islands of Hiddensee and Rügen to mainland Germany, and from Norway to Denmark remained in harbor.

Police in the northeastern part of Denmark said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that "the weather is still harsh."

Fire officials in the capital, Copenhagen, urged people to stay away from parks and forests, saying "the combination of rain-soaked ground and storms increases the risk of trees falling."

A downed tree in Copenhagen after heavy storm
Heavy rains have led to downed trees in Denmark, posing a safety riskImage: via REUTERS

Norwegian authorities raised the extreme weather warning alert to its highest on Monday because of heavy rain, mudslides and flash floods.

In Latvia, wind gusts of up to 108 kilometers per hour (67 miles per hour) were reported to have knocked over trees.

Meteorologists also reported hail the size of golf balls in the village of Apgulde, southwest of the capital, Riga.

Polish authorities said thousands of homes in the country were affected by power cuts on Monday after storms and heavy rain over the weekend.

Some 7,500 homes had no electricity on Monday in the northeastern region of Podlaskie. In nearby Warmia-Masuria, that figure stood at some 5,000.

rc/wd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)