Residents take flight from raging Evros

The army and state rescue services yesterday evacuated dozens of citizens from their homes in Evros after torrents of rainwater flooded more than 12,000 hectares of land in the northern prefecture, prompting authorities to open flood barriers along the swollen Evros River to relieve the pressure. «The state machine has been on the alert since this problem began,» Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said during a tour of the region where a state of emergency has been declared. «Our priority is the safety of citizens whose losses will be compensated for directly,» he said. The worst-hit area yesterday was the small town of Lavara, where people from 72 flooded homes were evacuated. Meanwhile, regional authorities expressed fears that the Vyssa dam would collapse under the pressure of extra water inflows, estimated at 2,000 cubic meters per second. The Evros River rose above the danger level at many points yesterday with the latest measurements showing 6.60 meters at Pythio, 6.50 meters at Ardas, 4.60 meters at Kypoi and 6.52 meters at Petalo. Regional authorities attributed the sudden rise in the river’s water level to recent heavy rainfall and melting snow as well as the influx of large quantities of water from dams in neighboring Bulgaria. The floodwaters have also submerged tens of thousands of hectares of agricultural land, prompting farmers to transport their livestock and equipment away from the river. The waters also flooded certain sections of the regional road network, causing transport problems. Prefectural officials from Evros and neighboring Turkey and Bulgaria yesterday discussed the possibility of a joint approach to curbing the problem.