Greece launches rescue effort in flooded villages

Greek rescue services were trying to reach dozens of villagers in central Greece Thursday, after deadly storms that saw more than a year’s worth of rain fall there in 24 hours.

Emergency services were using divers, lifeboats and at least one helicopter to reach the stranded residents. 

And the armed forces had been brought in to help evacuate one area after flooding had damaged a dam, said the minister in charge of civil protection.

Fierce storms have battered Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, following a period of extreme heat and devastating wildfires.

Climate experts say such extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more intense as a result of human-induced climate change.

The downpour, from Monday evening into Tuesday, hit the central region of Thessaly, 300 km (185 miles) to the north of Athens. The flooding affected the port city of Volos, and the towns of Karditsa and Tikala further inland.

Rescue services announced on Thursday that they had found a shepherd washed away by the flood waters, bringing the death toll for Storm Daniel to four. Across Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, the storms have killed at least 14 people. 

The downpour had transformed the plain of Thessaly into “a huge lake” fire services spokesman Yannis Artopios told public broadcaster ERT.

At least 64 people were stranded in several villages near Karditsa, said Civil Protection and Climate Crisis Minister Vassilis Kikilias. Another six people were missing, he added.

Detailing the situation in the Thessaly region, he added: “Operationally, the field is very difficult in the area between Trikala and Karditsa, along a tributary of the flooded Pinios river, which has broken a dam.”

The army would be helping evacuate the area.

– ‘Trapped in their houses’ –

ERT broadcast images of a Super Puma helicopter helping evacuate an elderly person.

A total of 480 firefighters with 195 vehicles are taking part in these operations in a region that is very difficult due to the high-water levels.

“For the third consecutive day, the country is facing an unprecedented phenomenon,” government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told journalists.

The high water levels in a number of towns and villages in the area had made it difficult to reach the inhabitants, he said. Emergency services had sent rescue teams with divers and lifeboats to help with the rescue operation.

Private TV channel Skai showed pictures of houses under water in Palmas in the Karditsa district of Thessaly. 

“The inhabitants are trapped in their homes without any help,” the city’s mayor, Giorgos Sakellariou, told the channel, adding that the floodwater was between 1.5 and 2 metres high.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday postponed a visit to northern Greece, setting up an emergency coordination unit in Larissa, one of the main towns in Thessaly.

He also postponed his weekend visit to the Thessaloniki International Trade Fair, where he had been due to give the annual keynote speech, present the government’s four-year plan and hold a major news conference.


Originally published as Greece launches rescue effort in flooded villages

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