More than 800 people rescued from Storm Daniel

More than 800 people rescued from Storm Daniel

Greek firefighters recovered the body of a man from a stream in central Greece on Thursday, bringing the country’s death toll from floods to four after severe rainstorms turned streets into raging torrents, hurled cars into the sea and washing away roads and bridges. Another six people were missing.

Authorities deployed divers and swift water rescue specialists as residents in some of the worst-hit areas took refuge on the roofs of their homes to escape floodwaters that rose to more than 2 meters.

Vassilis Kikilias, Greece’s minister for climate crisis and civil protection, said more than 885 people had been rescued so far and six were reported missing.

Flooding triggered by severe rainstorms also hit neighboring Bulgaria and Turkey, leaving a total of 15 people dead in the three countries.

“Our country finds itself, for the third day, dealing with a phenomenon the likes of which we have not seen in the past,” Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said. He noted that some areas received more than twice the average annual rainfall of Athens in the space of 12 hours.

“The state’s absolute priority at the moment is the rescue … of people from the areas hit by the bad weather and the protection of critical infrastructure,” Marinakis said.

The fire department said the body of a man who was reported missing Wednesday was found in a stream near a village in the Domokos area of central Greece.

Fire department spokesperson Vasilis Vathrakogiannis said swift water rescue specialists and divers from the department’s disaster response units, as well as the army, were participating in rescue efforts and trying to reach remote areas despite roads having been washed away.

The flooding followed on the heels of devastating wildfires that destroyed vast tracts of forest and farmland, burned homes and left more than 20 people dead.

The flooding on Thursday was concentrated mainly in the central towns of Karditsa, where people were reportedly seeking safety from rising water levels on the roofs of their homes. More rain was forecast for later in the day.

Tracked vehicles and boats were being used to help evacuate people, but the boats were unable to reach some areas due to the large volume of debris and the strength of the torrents of floodwaters. Frequent lightning meant helicopters were unable to fly, Vathrakogiannis said.

Defense Minister Nikos Dendias said on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, that he cut short a trip to Dubai to return to Greece so he could “oversee the greatest contribution of the Armed Forces in dealing with the consequences of the severe weather.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis postponed his annual state of the economy speech and a news conference scheduled for the weekend in the northern city of Thessaloniki in order to visit the flooded areas.

Police have banned traffic from three regions, including on the island of Skiathos, and have sent numerous emergency phone alerts to people in several parts of the country to avoid venturing outdoors and to move away from basement and ground floor areas of buildings.

On Wednesday, repeated rainstorms also hit the Greek capital, flooding streets and turning part of a major avenue in the city center into a river of mud that swept people off their feet. [AP]

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