A powerful storm has hammered parts of central Greece, sweeping away roads, smashing bridges and flooding homes, just three weeks after heavy rains killed 16 people in the wider region.
The new storm – called Elias – caused extensive flooding in the central city of Volos on Thursday and left hundreds stranded in nearby mountain villages. The fire service carried out multiple rescues and evacuations, authorities said.
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“All of Volos has turned into a lake,” the city’s mayor, Achilleas Beos, told state television. “People’s lives are in danger. Even I remained trapped, and 80 percent of the city is without power … I don’t know where God found so much water. It’s like the story of Noah’s Ark.”
Authorities have stopped all vehicles from going onto the roads.
“People can’t stand this any more. I cannot understand nature’s rage. Protect yourselves,” said Beos, urging residents to stay home.
Residents in Volos, a city of nearly 140,000, used plastic buckets to scoop mud out of their homes to try to protect their belongings. Among them was 83-year-old Apostolis Dafereras, who has lived in a suburb of the city since 1955.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Dafereras said as he tried to push mud and flood water out of his home.
More than 250 people have been evacuated from the area since Storm Elias struck on Wednesday afternoon, the fire brigade said on Thursday, adding that it had so far received 1,200 calls for help.
Authorities said the worst damage was reported around Volos and in northern parts of the nearby island of Evia, an area vulnerable to flooding due to massive wildfires two years ago. Water levels in the city and its suburbs rose rapidly in a few hours, and a nearby stream overflowed, adding to the flooding.
Authorities ‘not prepared’
Elias is the second major storm to hit the region since Storm Daniel – the most intense rainfall to hit Greece since records began in 1930 – battered the region for three days earlier in September.
Many Volos residents said the authorities were still dealing with the aftermath of Daniel and had not been adequately prepared for another storm.
“This was foretold,” said Yannis Gavanoudis, a 70-year-old pensioner. “They [authorities] didn’t do their job properly.”
Daniel turned central Greece into an inland sea, flooding homes and damaging road infrastructure and farms near Volos, Karditsa and Larissa.
Tens of thousands of animals drowned and crops were washed away, and residents of the flooded areas are still struggling to recover.
Daniel also wrought devastation across the Mediterranean, moving from Greece to Libya, where thousands died in a huge flood in the coastal city of Derna.