News World

Greece launches rescue effort in flooded villages

Greece launches rescue effort in flooded villages
Source: Video Screenshot

Greek rescue teams used divers, lifeboats and helicopters to reach dozens of villagers in central Greece Thursday, as the death toll from the Storm Daniel rose to six.

The fire service announced that they had found the bodies of two elderly women, as well as a shepherd washed away by the flood waters.

Emergency services worked alongside the army to get to the stranded residents, while more villages had to be evacuated after flooding damaged a dam.

Fierce storms have battered Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria following a period of extreme heat and devastating wildfires — the kind of extreme weather climate experts say is becoming more frequent because of human-induced climate change.

The downpour, from Monday evening into Tuesday, hit the central region of Thessaly, 300 kilometres (185 miles) to the north of Athens.

Flooding affected the port city of Volos, and the towns of Karditsa and Tikala further inland and several villages, after more than a year’s worth of rain fell there in 24 hours.

Houses sank under water, while cars and even a bridge were washed away, an AFP journalist reported.

Night-time rescue operation

Summarising the situation in Thessaly, Civil Protection and Climate Crisis Minister Vassilis Kikilias told reporters that some 67 people had been rescued from the villages near Karditsa.

“Rescuers and rescue boats and all available teams with artificial lighting will continue house-to-house rescues in the stranded villages during the night,” he said.

Operations were complicated because of a breached dam between Trikala and Karditsa, along a tributary of the flooded River Pinios.

While 10 helicopters had been operating, including three from the army, they would have to stop overnight.

Austria’s foreign ministry said that two of its citizens had gone missing in the area.

The plain of Thessaly, the country’s largest “has been transformed into a vast lake,” Dimitris Theodorou, a retired farmer from the village of Farkadona told AFP.

“You can’t even see the cornfields, that are two, to two-and-a-half metres high,” he added.

A bridge over the River Enipeas near the town of Farsala was swept away by the floodwaters, an AFP journalist reported.

‘Trapped in their houses’

Earlier Thursday, ERT television 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 complicated by the high levels of the floodwaters.

“For the third consecutive day, the country is facing an unprecedented phenomenon” with floodwaters making it difficult to reach some towns and villages, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told journalists.

Emergency services had sent teams of divers and lifeboats to help with the rescue operation, he added.

Private TV channel Skai showed footage 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.

“Unfortunately, we are moving from one natural disaster to another in Greece (…),” European Commission spokesman Balazs Ujvari told reporters in Brussels.

The EU’s civil protection mechanism stood ready to assist, he added.


About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

Daily Newsletter