More than 800 people have been rescued over the past two days from floods in Greece, the fire department said Thursday, after severe rainstorms turned streets into raging torrents, hurling cars into the sea and washing away roads.
The rainstorms have also hit neighbouring Bulgaria and Turkey, leaving 14 people dead in the three countries, including three people in Greece.
Fire department spokesperson Vasilis Vathrakogiannis said swift water rescue specialists and divers from the department’s disaster response units, as well as the army, were participating in rescue efforts and were trying to reach remote areas despite roads having been washed away.
The flooding follows on the heels of devastating wildfires that destroyed vast tracts of forest and farmland, burned homes and left more than 20 people dead.
The flooding on Thursday was concentrated mainly in the central towns of Karditsa, where people were reportedly seeking safety from rising water levels on the roofs of their homes. More rain was forecast for later in the day.
In some areas, floodwaters were higher than 2 meters (6 feet), Vathrakogiannis said. Tracked vehicles and boats were being used to help evacuate people, but the boats were unable to reach some areas due to the large volume of debris and the strength of the torrents of floodwaters. Frequent lightning meant helicopters were unable to fly, he added.
Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis said some areas received more than twice the average annual rainfall of Athens in the space of 12 hours.
Defense Minister Nikos Dendias cut short a trip to Dubai and was returning to Greece “to oversee the greatest contribution of the Armed Forces in dealing with the consequences of the severe weather,” he announced on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis postponed his annual state of the economy speech and a news conference scheduled for the weekend in the northern city of Thessaloniki in order to visit the flooded areas.
Police have banned traffic from three regions, including on the island of Skiathos, and have sent numerous emergency phone alerts to people in several parts of the country to avoid venturing outdoors and to move away from basement and ground floor areas of buildings.
On Wednesday, repeated rainstorms also hit the Greek capital, flooding streets and turning part of a major avenue in the city center into a river of mud that swept people off their feet.