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As deadly Greek rainstorm ebbs, a trail of devastation emerges

by Uma
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2023 09 08T071340Z 1 LYNXMPEJ8706Y RTROPTP 4 EUROPE WEATHER GREECE STORM

As deadly Greek rainstorm ebbs, a trail of devastation emerges

By Angeliki Koutantou and Louisa Gouliamaki

KARDITSA, Greece (Reuters) -Hundreds of people were stranded without food or water for a third day in Greece after a devastating rainstorm killed at least six people and caused billions of euros of damage.

Storm Daniel, which meteorologists said was the worst to hit the country since records began in 1930, has left a trail of devastation across Thessaly in central Greece.

Homes were swept away by torrents, bridges collapsed, roads were made impassable, power lines fell and crops in one of Greece’s main agricultural breadbaskets wiped out.

“I don’t think we have realised the magnitude of this disaster yet,” Professor Efthymios Lekkas, a disaster management expert, told state broadcaster ERT on Friday.

Extreme weather events have struck across the globe in recent weeks, with floods in Scandinavia, southeast Europe and Hong Kong. In contrast, India had its driest August since records began more than a century ago.

The three-day deluge in Greece – in which, meteorologist George Tsatrafyllias said, one region received more rain in 24 hours than London does in an average year – followed a huge wildfire in northern Greece and the country’s hottest summer on record.

Six people were killed. The number of missing was unclear. Greek authorities mounted a massive rescue operation, deploying helicopters to winch people off rooftops, and inflatables.

Dozens of villages in the low-lying Thessaly region were submerged in water and local officials appealed for help via television stations.

“We need food and water,” said Yiannis Koukas, mayor of the flooded village of Vlochos.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the crisis-hit area on Friday. He cancelled a trip scheduled for Saturday to the northern city of Thessaloniki, where he was to deliver his annual keynote speech on the state of the economy.

Speaking to ERT, Thessaly governor Kostas Agorastos said he estimated the storm had caused around three times the 700 million euros ($750 million) of damage inflicted by extensive floods in 2020.

More than 1,800 people had been rescued from flood-hit areas across Greece since Tuesday, the fire brigade said. In some areas floodwaters were still 2 metres (6-1/2 feet) deep.

Thessaly accounts for about 15 percent of the country’s annual agricultural output and is a major cotton producing area.

Torrential rains left more than a metre of silt dumped on once-fertile soils. “The agricultural production isn’t destroyed just for this year. The thick coat of silt means it is no longer fertile,” Lekkas said.

($1 = 0.9328 euros)

(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas and Lefteris Papadimas; Writing By Michele Kambas; editing by John Stonestreet and Ros Russell)