Storm in Macedonia kills at least 17

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By Kole Casule

SKOPJE, Aug 7 (Reuters) - At least 17 people died in flash floods in the Macedonian capital Skopje during a storm on Saturday evening, Deputy Prime Minister Nikola Todorov said on Sunday, warning that the death toll could rise further.

Torrential rains had swept away a section of the ring road around Skopje and some cars had been carried hundreds of meters into nearby fields, a Reuters reporter said.

"This is a catastrophe of unprecedented proportion," Todorov said. He said he had received unconfirmed reports of three further deaths.

Northern suburbs of Skopje were particularly hard hit, with many homes flooded. There were also flash floods in the city center, according to the reporter.

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Macedonia flash floods kill at least 17
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Macedonia flash floods kill at least 17
This photo taken on August 7, 2016 in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, shows a vehicle in a canal damaged from flooding. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People wade through floodwaters in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People walk in a street damaged by floods in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man passes damaged vehicles in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman wades in floodwaters in front of her home in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on August 7, 2016 in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, shows a damaged vehicle in front of a church, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man walks through a flooded street in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Two men pass through flood-damaged areas in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on August 7 in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, shows vehicles damaged from flooding. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man passes damaged vehicles in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains and fierce storms. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on August 7, 2016 in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, shows vehicles and streets damaged by flooding. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People leave their flood-hit homes in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man speaks on a mobile phone in front of damaged vehicles and flooded streets in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man takes a photo of damaged vehicles following floods in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looks on while wading in floodwaters in the village of Stajkovci, near Skopje, on August 7, 2016, following overnight torrential rains. Fierce storms packing strong winds and torrential rains overnight killed at least 20 people in Macedonia's capital of Skopje, the health minister said August 7. The freak weather included winds blowing at more than 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour and resulted in flash floods and landslides, with cars swept away by the violent torrents. / AFP / Robert ATANASOVSKI (Photo credit should read ROBERT ATANASOVSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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Police had said earlier that 22 people had been hurt during the storm.

Special police forces and trucks loaded with drinking water were heading for the most affected areas, and there some electricity outages, the Reuters reporter said.

The rain had stopped on Sunday morning and water levels were receding, but more rain was forecast for the evening in the capital of the small Balkan nation of 2 million inhabitants.

European Union Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Twitter that the EU stood ready to help Macedonia, which is a candidate to join the bloc.

Further north in the Balkans, in Croatia, heavy winds caused disruptions on some roads, including the closure of the highway linking the capital Zagreb to southern coast for lorries and buses, local media said.

(Additional reporting by Igor Ilic in Zagreb; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing Raissa Kasolowsky, Greg Mahlich)

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