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Croatian firefighter 6th person to die after storm sweeps the Balkans

100s injured from fallen trees, objects blown by swirling winds though Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia
Firefighters remove fallen tree branches from damaged parked car after a powerful storm, in Zagreb, Croatia, Wednesday, July 19, 2023. A powerful storm with strong winds and heavy rain hit Croatia and Slovenia on Wednesday, killing at least three people and injuring several others. (AP Photo)

A Croatian firefighter has died during a deadly storm that swept the Balkans after a heat wave, bringing the death toll to six, officials said Thursday.

Emergency services in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia scrambled Thursday to restore electricity and clear the debris left over after Wednesday’s chaos.

Meteorologists said the storm was extremely powerful as it was formed after a string of very hot days. Experts say extreme weather conditions are likely fueled by climate change.

Elsewhere in Europe, a continuing heat wave caused wildfires and public health warnings.

Throughout the Balkan region, authorities reported hundreds of people injured, including around 20 seriously, from fallen trees, roof parts or other objects blown off by the swirling winds.

The firefighter in the eastern Croatian town of Tovarnik died “tragically” during the storm, the his unit said, revealing no other details.

Three more people died on Wednesday in Croatia, one in Slovenia and one in Bosnia. Serbia’s police said emergency crews saved 40 people and put out 20 fires caused by thunder and lightning.

“Four dead people from a storm like this is a terrible, huge tragedy,” said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic as he visited a park in the capital, Zagreb, where more than 200 trees were blown down.

Plenkovic said Croatia will establish a warning system for natural disasters and other dangers like Wednesday’s storm.

“There are not too many ways to counter this type of storm,” Plenkovic added. “It comes swiftly, it is powerful and it then moves on.”

Tens of thousands of people were also left without electricity in Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia. The town of Sremska Mitrovica, in northwestern Serbia, imposed emergency measures, saying the damage was huge, including damage to the roof of the surgical wing in the local hospital.

Emergency measures are usually declared for floods or similar natural disasters to enable local authorities to draw more funds and people during a crisis situation.

Authorities have warned that more storms are possible in the next few days before the next wave of very hot weather begins.

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