Storms, heavy winds hit Balkans after blistering heat wave

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BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — A heavy storm with strong winds, hail and rain has hit the Balkans and elsewhere in Europe as the weather changed on Monday following a week of record-high temperatures in the region.

Temperatures dropped significantly in some areas, bringing relief after reaching more than 40 C (104 F) last week.

Slovenia's STA news agency reported that the storms "caused havoc" across the country overnight Sunday to Monday.

Thousands of households were left without electricity, as hail and winds flooded dozens of houses, collapsed trees and damaged cars and crops and crops.

In Serbia, sudden heavy rains hit a mountainous region in the west late Monday before spreading to other parts of the country.

On Sunday, two men were killed in separate incidents in northern Italy when strong winds toppled trees which crushed them. In another incident, a hiker slipped to her death from a muddy path. A lightning strike killed a man walking in a forest in a fourth incident Sunday.

Meanwhile, officials in neighboring Romania retrieved the bodies of two teenage boys who drowned while bathing in a river to cool off during the heat wave.

Officials in the northeast county of Neamt said they pulled out the bodies of a 15-year-old on Sunday and a 16-year-old on Monday morning. They had been swimming in the Siret river.

Emergency services spokesman Adrian Rotaru said that "these teens went into the river to cool off due to the heat wave.... we do not recommend bathing in unsupervised areas."

Romanian authorities issued a flood warning for parts of western Romania on Monday after heavy rain following a weeklong heat wave. Officials say at least two people died last week.

The National Hydrology Institute issued a "yellow warning" for the Mures River in western Romania that will last until Monday evening. A statement said the heavy rainfall could produce torrents and flooding along the river.

In Croatia's Istria peninsula, stormy winds late Sunday uprooted trees and damaged roofs. Temporary traffic restrictions were imposed in some areas along the Adriatic coast late Sunday and early Monday.

A wildfire broke out Monday in the coastal Makarska area of central Croatia despite the cooling trend, engulfing pine trees and low shrubbery and halting traffic on a key road.

Authorities briefly halted traffic on the main road along the coast, sending travelers to smaller routes. They say a firefighting plane has been engaged to help put out the blaze.

Dozens of wildfires have erupted in Croatia and elsewhere in Europe during an extremely hot and dry summer.

Meteorologists say the heat wave will return later in the week.

At the other end of Europe, Portugal's airport management company said that almost 15,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted by strong winds that forced the cancellation of 101 flights to and from the Madeira Islands over the weekend through Monday.

Winds gusting up to 80 kph (50 mph) battered the island over the weekend. Some flights diverted to nearby Porto Santo island and travelled to Madeira by ferry. Madeira and its airport are particularly exposed to bad weather in the Atlantic.

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