Boats, helicopters rescue hundreds as storm batters Greece for 3 days

Published September 9, 2023
Volunteers carry an elderly woman during a rescue operation in a flooded village near Karditsa, a city in central Greece, on Friday. — AFP
Volunteers carry an elderly woman during a rescue operation in a flooded village near Karditsa, a city in central Greece, on Friday. — AFP

LARISSA: Helicopters winched people from rooftops and military personnel used rubber boats to rescue families from floodwaters up to three metres deep in central Greece on Friday after a devastating rainstorm killed 10 people.

Storm Daniel, which meteorologists said was the worst to hit the country since records began in 1930, pummelled Greece for three days, leaving a trail of ruin after a record summer heatwave that had touched off huge wildfires.

Homes were swept away by torrents, bridges collapsed, roads were made impassable, power lines fell and crops in the fertile Thessaly plain were wiped out.

Civil protection authorities confirmed a death toll of 10, with four people missing. It said 1,700 people had been rescued in total, among them 296 airlifted away from their homes. Residents said the water was three metres deep in places.

Dozens of villages in the region were submerged. People who called in to TV stations said hundreds of people were still stranded. Residents, many of them farmers, were despondent at the work of a lifetime disappearing in hours.

“The damage we have all suffered to our homes is irreparable. A lifetime’s worth of work (was lost) within two hours,” said Haralampos Tsergas, 59, from the village of Palamas.

Another Palamas resident, Evripidis Manoukas, 46, sitting on a trailer with other locals and their pets after being rescued, said the water level had risen quickly.

“We made an attempt to open the door, more water was coming in, so we closed it again and left through the windows,” he said.

As well as the human devastation, the storm will deal an economic blow to the country which emerged from a decade-long debilitating debt crisis in 2018, but Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said it could withstand the disaster.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2023

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