Residents of the western fringes of the Greek capital struggled Thursday to clean up the devastation caused by flash floods that killed at least 15 people, while rescue crews searched for five people who remained missing.
The hardest hit area was Mandra, a modest working-class neighborhood on the western outskirts of the Greek capital, where nearly all the fatalities occurred. Authorities said about 500 homes and businesses were damaged.
Wednesday’s flash floods, which came after a severe overnight storm, turned streets into raging torrents of mud and debris that carried away vehicles, collapsed walls and submerged a section of a major highway.
"There is huge damage. Inestimable damage," Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki told local media.
The disaster was among the worst to have hit the Greek capital in decades, and the government declared a day of national mourning.
Two men who had been reported missing were found alive, while rescue crews continued search operations for another five people still listed as missing on Thursday afternoon.
Twelve of the 23 injured remained hospitalized, including an 82-year-old woman listed as being in serious condition in an intensive care unit, the National Health Operations Center said.
Cars lay piled on top of each other or flung against buildings after being carried away by the torrents sweeping through the areas streets. Some houses and businesses saw outer walls collapse, leaving the interior exposed to the elements. Rubble, twisted metal and smashed vehicles lined the roads.
"As you can see, everything is a mess," said local resident Katerina Sideri.
More storms lashed the Greek capital on Thursday, temporarily severing traffic on one of Athens’ main central avenues, although they did not cause severe flash floods comparable to the previous day.
Local municipalities were providing hotel rooms for those left homeless, while the Merchant Marine Ministry said it was making arrangements for a cruise ship to dock on the coast near the affected area to provide temporary accommodation. It also said arrangements were being made with the army and navy to provide water tankers to transport clean water to residents.
Nearly all the injuries and fatalities occurred in Mandra and the surrounding area. Twelve of the dead were found there, while the bodies of two men were picked up by the coast guard after having been swept out to sea by the flood. The 15th was reportedly a winter swimmer who drowned on the coast near the flooded area.
The victims ranged in ages from mid-30s to 80s, and included a truck driver swept away by floodwater, a hunter and several people who drowned in their flooded homes. Most of those who died had drowned, a coroner at the hospital told local reporters, while some appeared to have died from injuries sustained from debris being carried by the floodwater.
One of the dead has not been officially identified.
The fire department said Thursday it had received 660 calls for help to pump water from flooded homes and businesses since Wednesday morning, while it had rescued 88 people trapped in houses and vehicles. All fire services in the wider Athens area remained on alert as more bad weather was forecast for the area.