Large hail stones. Royalty free photo by PXFuel.com
25 Jul 2023

Powerful storms and flooding during heatwave & wildfire crisis 2023: hail the size of tennis balls in Europe, 750 evacuated in Nova Scotia, 34 dead in Algeria


A water bomber crashed in Greece, four people were killed in storms Northern Italy, and the Palermo airport in Sicily was closed to forest fires. More than 30 people are dead in Algeria fires, and 750 evacuated due to floods in Nova Scotia. Extreme weather continues to affect the world in summer 2023.  

Italy: Five people have died, four in storms and one in the Sicily wildfires, reports The Guardian. Two extreme weather events split Italy between two extremes: wildfires in the south and violent storms in the north. Fires in Sicily led to the temporary closure of Palermo airport while temperatures reached  47 C / 117 F on Monday.

Near Palermo, more than 120 families have been evacuated from their homes in Mondello, Capo Gallo and Poggio Ridente since Monday,

An 88-year-old woman was reported to have died in San Martino delle Scale, close to Palermo, after access disruption from the fires prevented emergency services from reaching her in time.

More than 55 wildfires have been reported on Sicily.  Hundreds of firefighters from other regions in Italy  are expected to arrive as backup. 


Rhodes wildfires: Largest evacuation in the history of Greece

In the wildfire report by CTIF´s Zisoula Ntasiou yesterday, CTIF.org wrote about the ongoing wildfire crisis in Greece.

CNN described on Monday July 24th the evacuations performed on the island of Rhodes as the largest in Greek history.  Fires are also burning on the islands of Corfu and Evia, with Greek emergency services issuing evacuation orders for several parts of Corfu.


DW.com wrote on July 22 that as fires threatened homes and hotels on the island of Rhodes, many residents and tourists were forced to spend the night on beaches and streets. 

"This is the biggest fire evacuation ever in Greece," Greek police spokeswoman Konstantia Dimoglidou said.

 Our Greek colleagues have pointed out some errors in newspaper reports. Some media have reported as many as 30,000 have been evacuated - however those numbers may be incorrect.  

BBC wrote on Sunday July 23 that "thousands of people had been evacuated" from Rhodes.

CTIF´s Zisoula Ntasiou, who wrote a recent report on the fires here on CTIF.org, says that according to the first estimates of the Police, a precautionary evacuation of approximately 19,000 people was carried out. 16,000 were transported by land and 3,000 by sea.

Ms Ntasiou will return with the correct numbers from the Greek press officer soon, in a future update on the Rhodes situation.



Four dead in storms in the north of Italy

Powerful storms in Lombardy claimed four lives, including  a 16-year-old girl who was killed during a camping trip in Cedelogo. A tree reportedly broke and fell on to her  tent.

While the heatwave continues in the southern arts of Italy, the arrival of cooler air from northern Europe, brought more torrential rain and strong winds in Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.

On Monday, storms broke trees and blocked the metro in Milano. The Italian rail company Trenord experienced  extensive damage and breakdowns.

The storms night to Tuesday brought large hailstones damaging the nose and wings of a Delta Air Lines plane that had been bound for New York, forcing it to divert to Rome Fiumicino.


Four dead in Croatia, including firefighter on duty

On July 19, the storm system reached Croatia and killed four people there, including a firefighter on duty. Around 100 people were injured. According to Croatian public service channel HRT, the storm in Zagreb lasted about 45 minutes. In that short time, residents experienced hail, rain and winds of 120 kilometers per hour /  33.33 M/S.

In some parts of the country, wind speeds reached 180 kilometers per hour, corresponding to 50.0 M/S.


160 km/h winds created road chaos in Austria

In Austria the fire services received more than 500 calls, mostly to deal with trees obstructing roadways after storms with more than 160 km/h / 100 mph / 45 mps winds, hail and strong thunderstorms were reported.

The storm caused damages for more than 15 million Euros mostly in the Tirol region.  


Storm started in Slovenia and moved west

EUMETSAT.int has tracked the storm, as it started in Slovenia last week:  "On 18 July a line of convective storms ... caused  devastating winds... reported from west Austria all the way to south of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as can be seen from reports from European Severe Weather Database.

"On 18 July a line of convective storms ...  caused mostly devastating winds, the wind damages being reported from west Austria all the way to south of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as can be seen from reports from European Severe Weather Database".

 "... on 19 July, a convective system developed above northern Italy, and proceeded eastwards with a speeds of more than 80km/h, gaining in strength and developing into a Mesoscale Convective System... The storm on 19 July initially hit Slovenia, causing large wind-related damage. Then, when passing over Croatia, became more violent, exhibiting supercell characteristics, leaving a swath of destruction.

In Karlovac, in west Croatia, large hail damaged many roofs, cars and fields. The size of the hail was up to 13cm / 5,1 inches, according to witness reports


Water bomber crash in Greece

A Canadair water bomber crashed today in Greece on the island of Evia. The crash was caught on video and can be seen in the link. It appears the aircraft caught one of its wings on a tree after dropping their load of water, and then crashed in a hard to reach area. 

A helicopter has examined the crash site and both pilots are feared dead, as the plane had no ejection system, according to officials.

Crashed with water bombers are not uncommon. Similar crashes occurred during forest fire season in Italy in 2022 and in Spain in 2020.


The Canadian water bomber moments before the crash
The Canadian water bomber moments before the crash. 


In the province of Nova Scotia, Canada, 750 people were evacuated over the weekend when powerful floods affected the province, including the capital city of Halifax, reports the CBC. 

According to the BBC, police have recovered the body of a 52-year-old man whose vehicle was submerged. Unidentified human remains were also found as police continue to search for three others missing, including two children.

The Nova Scotia flooding was caused by the heaviest torrential rains to reportedly hit the Atlantic Canada region in 50 years.


In Algeria, 34 people or more are dead as the result of wildfires across the country. The death toll includes 10 soldiers deployed to fight the fires, according to Reuters. 

Around 8,000 firefighters are deployed to bring the fires under control, authorities said.

The interior ministry said that it is continuing its firefighting operations in the Boumerdes, Bouira, Tizi Ouzou, Jijel, Bejaia and Skikda regions.

According to The Guardian,  fires killed 37 people in Algeria’s north-east El Tarf province in In August of 2022.  In the 2021 forest fire season,  90 people were killed in wildfires.

In an attempt to avoid a repeat of previous years’ high death tolls, Algerian authorities have announced a series of measures in recent months. The measures include six medium-sized water bombing aircraft and the construction of landing strips for helicopters and several fire-fighting drones.



Cover photo: (above) Large hailstones. Royalty free photo by PXFuel.com