THESSALONIKI - Torrential rain in Thessaloniki on Thursday trapped Greek and foreign visitors in the iconic White Tower in the city, when water collected at the entrance that lies below street level, prevented them from exiting.
Students from a primary school in the prefecture of Magnesia and British tourists managed to leave through the ground-floor window of the building after the fire brigade sawed through the bars. All were in good health.
Another building to suffer from flooding was the 7th-century Agia Sofia (Tis tou Theou Sofias), a UNESCO-recognized monument that serves as the cathedral of Thessaloniki, when rainwater flooded the church.
Major problems caused by violent downpour
The fire brigade in Thessaloniki had received more than 300 calls for assistance by Thursday afternoon, following a heavy thunderstorm accompanied by hail that broke out in the northern Greek city at around 12:30.
According to reliable sources, a woman swept away by a torrent at Sykies has been rescued, while efforts are continuing to rescue four people trapped on a bridge after their vehicles were immobilised due to the high water level.
Many ground-floor and basement shops and houses were flooded during the downpour, which turned roads into rivers and flooded the city's landmark White Tower on the sea front, as well as the basements of the Thessaloniki City Hall.
The city also experienced power cuts due to the thunder storm, while lightning falling on the city's Macedonia international airport caused airport authorities to stop the refuelling of planes as a safety precaution for seven minutes. The airport has now resumed normal functioning, Fraport Greece spokesman Yiannis Papazoglou told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.