Seven people have died, including six foreign tourists, and at least 23 have been injured in northern Greece by a tornado accompanied by hail storms, which ravaged the Chalkidiki region on Wednesday.
As indicated on Thursday Civil Protection services, the deceased tourists are two Romanians, two Russians and two Czechs, including two children, near Thessaloniki, the second largest city in the country.
The seventh deceased is a 62-year-old Greek fisherman who was unaccounted for and whose body was recognized by his relatives, authorities said.
"In five minutes we have lived a hell," Haris Lazaridis, owner of the tavern in Nea Plagia told AFP, where a 54-year-old Romanian woman and her 8-year-old son died.
The restaurants and bars in the area were crowded at the beginning of the summer season, when suddenly there was a moment of "panic".
"People started screaming and ran to hide inside the place," Lazaridis explained, detailing that there were about a hundred people when the wooden roof collapsed because of the wind and killed the woman. His son was dragged by the wind and fell on the glass door.
State of emergency
On Thursday morning the landscape was bleak in this tourist region of the north of the country, where a state of emergency was declared.
You could see overturned cars, downed trees and mudflows, an AFP journalist said. Among the injured there are five children.
"It was an unprecedented phenomenon," with "very strong winds" and "violent hailstorms," Charalambos Steriadis, head of Civil Protection in northern Greece, told AFP.
The tornado lasted about 20 minutes, according to witnesses interrogated by Greek public television ERT. The government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, indicated that the winds reached 100 km / h.
"It's a miracle that there were no more dead," said Kyriakos Athanasiadis, a 39-year-old vacationer. "Almost all the restaurants on the seashore were full and it was seen flying a lot of objects of great caliber, it was tremendous," he added.
In the coastal town of Kassandra, about 70 km from Thessaloniki, the fall of a tree killed a Russian and his two-year-old son in a hotel, a police source said.
And in Sozopoli, another coastal town full of tourists, a couple of Czech Septuagenarians died when their caravan installed on a beach was dragged by the violent gusts of wind. His 48-year-old son and his 19-year-old grandson were also injured.
And the wind lifted his caravan "like a box of matches," says Yannis Karabourniotis, owner of a fish tavern a few meters away.
«What has happened is indescribable. All these damages have occurred in five minutes, "he told AFP. "Around my place there were more than 50 pines. Most have been rooted or have been cut in half, it is an incredible thing, "he added.
"I want to express my pain on behalf of everyone, we mourn the loss of these souls," said Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis, who oversees the operations.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, elected in the legislative elections on Sunday, canceled his agenda on Thursday to manage this catastrophe, his office said.
At least 140 firefighters participated in the rescue operations, said the head of this service, Vassilis Varthakoyannis.
The whole sector was left without electricity, due to the storms, and the military was working to restore the current.
The storm occurred in the north of the country, while in the rest of Greece have recorded temperatures of up to 37 ºC in the last two days.