Lightning struck participants of the Six Peaks Night Mountain Race on mountain Falakro in northern Greece in the early hours of Sunday, killing one and seriously injuring another. A third athlete survived due to hypothermia, while the fourth athlete, a woman, escaped the stroke apparently due to her proximity. The tragedy occurred on the mountains near the city of Drama.
A large rescue operation involving 14 firefighters and five engines is underway to transport the survivors to a safe location.
A spokesman for the Fire Service told the media that a 56-year-old man was found unconscious and a 55-year-old man was seriously injured.
“The third man, the one who called us,” spokesman Giannis Artopios said, “is conscious and has hypothermia.”
Rain and lightning began during the race, trapping the three athletes at one point along the route.
The spokesman added that the rescue operation is difficult due to the athletes’ location, low visibility, torrential rain, and lightning activity.
The athletes, three men and one woman, were in close proximity when the lightning struck.
The Six Peaks race, organized by the hiking and mountaineering club of Nevrokopi, began at 07:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon in Pyrgoi.
The total distance is 36 km including the return, the race lasts 12 hours, and 56 athletes from all over Drama and Greece competed.
The difficult night race with a large altitude difference passes through six peaks with elevations of over 2,000 meters.
The mayor of the broader area, Theodoros Athanasiades, told news website newsit.gr that the weather phenomenon, which is common in the mountains, began in the early morning hours and struck at 03:00 a.m., while the athletes were returning.
“A group of four athletes, three men and one woman, were struck by lightning.” “One person lost consciousness, another is in critical condition, the third was attempting to assist them, and the fourth, who is also from Pyrgoi, appears not to have received the “wave” of lightning but the woman was in a state of panic,” the mayor said. “I am in a panic,” the mayor said.
He went on to say that it was a coincidence that the woman’s husband called her minutes after the lightning struck, that she was terrified, and that the man alerted a group of people who began climbing the mountain to find and help them.”
According to the most recent information, a helicopter was able to transport the severely injured man and the body of the deceased athlete to a hospital in Kavala, while the rescue operation is still ongoing.
The victim is said to be a resident of Kavala, also in northern Greece.
When the race began, the weather was pleasant.
Everyone is still reeling from the tragedy.