Evros rises to bursting point

Emergency services in eastern Thrace were on high alert yesterday evening as the swollen River Evros threatened to break its banks. Meanwhile, the bad weather that affected most of the country over the Christmas holidays endangered hikers on Mt Olympus and on Crete, while five people nearly drowned in an ambulance caught by a raging torrent in the Peloponnese. By late yesterday, the Evros – which forms a natural border between Greece and Turkey – had risen to 5.7 meters, just 40 centimeters below its point of overflow. Regional officials warned farmers and fishermen to remove their herds, agricultural machinery and boats from the immediate vicinity of the river, while military patrols were told to keep well clear of the Evros. The river broke its banks after storms in February, flooding thousands of hectares of fields on both sides of the border. In the northeastern Peloponnese, firemen had to cut open an ambulance that had been carried away by a stream in spate early on Christmas Day near the village of Karadza, on the road from Nafplion to Kranidi. The vehicle, which was carrying an elderly patient and another four people, became wedged under a bridge, while floodwater began to pour in through the broken windscreen. The driver and the doctor on board climbed out, were carried 400 yards by the torrent but managed to grab a handhold on the banks of the stream, from which firemen pulled them out with ropes. The other three passengers were extricated unhurt. On Mt Olympus, three hikers became lost in a Christmas Eve storm at an altitude of 2,200 meters, and were rescued the next day after being located via their mobile phone positioning system. Another five lost hikers were rescued yesterday from the Diktamos Gorge in western Crete.