|SOFIA - Heavy storms and floods this summer have killed 17 people and caused 393 million levs ($248 million) of damage in Bulgaria, the Black Sea country's government said on Thursday.|
From May to July, most of the victims were killed by lightning or drowned in swollen rivers and lakes as fierce storms swept the Balkan region.
Around 2 million of the country's 8 million people were directly affected by floods that damaged thousands of buildings and made many homeless, the government said in a statement.
The rains destroyed roads, bridges, and large stretches of rail tracks, and also damaged crops, forcing authorities to cut the country's 2005 wheat harvest forecast by around a fifth to 3.0 million tonnes.
In neighbouring Romania, which like Bulgaria is hoping to join the European Union in 2007, floods also destroyed thousands of homes and killed dozens.
The two countries have asked the EU for aid to help deal with the aftermath, with Romania estimating its damage at around $600 million.
Austria, Greece, the Czech and Slovak republics, the United States, and other countries have offered Bulgaria aid.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE