NEWS

Heavy floods take up baton from wildfires

Greece's summer of natural disasters took a new twist yesterday as authorities in northern Greece switched from fighting wildfires to trying to cope with floods caused by rainfall that was much heavier than the seasonal average. More than 500 homes were flooded according to officials in Evros, northeastern Greece, as the rain, which began on Sunday, continued to fall. The floods disrupted road and rail travel as 45 passengers had to be evacuated from a train near Komotini after a stream broke its banks and water covered the tracks. At least 15 people had to be rescued from villages near the city of Alexandroupolis after climbing onto the roofs of their homes to escape the rising water level. Authorities in Serres said that 85 millimeters of rain fell in just 24 hours. The average for the whole of August is 30.2 millimeters. Hail also fell in Serres and is thought to have destroyed some 500 hectares of crops in the area. The bad weather also forced Thessaloniki's Macedonia Airport to shut down for several hours on Sunday night. Ten flights were diverted to land at other airports. The bout of rainy weather put authorities in Attica on flood alert, particularly as works to prevent flooding on fire-ravaged Mount Parnitha have not yet reached even the halfway stage. «It would have been very unfortunate if the weather that struck northern Greece made its way down south,» Giorgos Baloutsos of the National Agricultural Research Foundation told Kathimerini. «Flooding would have been inevitable.» Despite the rain in northern Greece, authorities in the northern Peloponnese had to battle a wildfire that broke out near the town of Akrata. Traffic stopped on the Athens-Patras highway as helicopters flew over immobilized cars to drop water on the fire, which burned some 15 hectares of scrubland.

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