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Extreme Weather in Macedonia Kills at Least 17 People 

  • VOA News

People walk through a street where cars have piled due to overnight flooding, after storms in the village of Stajkovci, just east of Skopje, Macedonia, Aug. 7, 2016.

People walk through a street where cars have piled due to overnight flooding, after storms in the village of Stajkovci, just east of Skopje, Macedonia, Aug. 7, 2016.

Extremely powerful storms have claimed the lives of at least 17 people in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

At least six people are missing, about 60 others have been hospitalized and about 1,000 have been evacuated.

Health Minister Nikola Todorov said the death toll could rise and the government plans to issue a state of emergency for two weeks in the most affected areas.

Torrential rains and winds exceeding 70 kilometers caused flash floods and landslides Saturday. Meterologists said the average amount of rainfall Skopje receives in August fell in just two hours and 800 lightning strikes were recorded.

Hundreds of homes and vehicles have been destroyed by the floods. Some roads are still blocked and several areas are without electricity.

Mayor Koce Trajanovski described the damage from the storms as "the worst Skopje has ever seen."

The worst hit areas were villages outside of the capital including Aracinovo, Singelic, Smilkovci and Stajkovci..

Police and army helicopters are evacuating people from their homes and searching for others who are missing.

Forecasters predict more rain, and possibly strong winds.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Twitter that the European Union is ready to help Macedonia, which is a candidate for membership in the 28 nation bloc.

The last time Skopje experienced disastrous flooding was in 1962, a year before an earthquake almost destroyed the city.

Some material for this report came from AP, AFP and Reuters.

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