ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Widespread flooding in central Greece has left at least six people dead, six missing and dozens more stranded, with heavy downpours feeding raging torrents that burst dams, washed away roads and bridges, tossed cars into the sea and left large areas. without electricity or drinking water.
Flooding caused by torrential rains also hit neighboring Bulgaria and Turkey, rescue teams in Turkey on Thursday recovered the body of a 53-year-old man missing since floods swept through a campsite near the border with Bulgaria, washing away bungalows. The resumption brought the death toll in Turkey to eight, and one a total of 18 in the three countries since the start of the rains on Tuesday.
In Greece, authorities deployed divers and rapid water rescue specialists as residents of some villages took refuge on the roofs of their homes to escape floodwaters that rose to more than 2 meters (6 feet). ).
Firefighters said 110 people – including a baby – and a dog were airlifted to safety in an operation involving ten helicopters. Some of those airlifted told local media they spent the night and most of Thursday on rooftops without food or water. Helicopters, which were continuing rescue operations in the Karditsa area, had been unable to fly earlier due to frequent lightning, authorities said.
At least three villages in Karditsa and the neighboring region of Trikala have been completely cut off by the floodwaters, with residents calling radio stations to report the collapse of their homes and to call for help.
Further east, around 200 people, including several foreign tourists, were evacuated by sea from areas below Mount Pilion made inaccessible by land after roads were washed out or blocked by falling rocks. .
The body of a man who had been missing for a day was found in a stream on Thursday and hours later firefighters said they discovered the bodies of two women in a village in the Karditsa region. These three deaths bring the total toll from floods in the country since Tuesday to six.
Vassilis Kikilias, Greece’s minister for the climate crisis and civil protection, said rescue efforts would continue through the night.
“Rescuers, equipped with boats and all means available… will continue to go house to house to evacuate and rescue people stuck in villages that have been isolated,” he said on Thursday evening.
He added that army and civil protection personnel would distribute more than 3,000 meals and bottles of water in 24 villages in Karditsa and Trikala regions.
Firefighters said nearly 1,800 people had been rescued so far and six were missing. The military said it has deployed more than 25 boats to rescue people trapped by floodwaters.
“Our country finds itself, for the third day, facing a phenomenon like we have never seen in the past,” Greek government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said, pointing out that some regions have received more than two times the average annual rainfall for Athens in 2017. the space of 12 hours.
“The state’s top priority right now is the rescue … of people living in areas affected by the weather and the protection of critical infrastructure,” Marinakis said.
Fire department spokesman Vasilis Vathrakogiannis said swiftwater rescue specialists and divers from the department’s disaster response units, as well as the military, were assisting in the rescue efforts and attempting to reach remote areas.
Floods followed devastating forest fires which destroyed large swaths of forest and farmland, burned homes and killed more than 20 people. With much of central Greece inundated, firefighters said a new wildfire broke out on Thursday afternoon in the northeast region of Evros. It was in an area where, last week, the biggest forest fire recorded in the European Union ravaged a nature reserve. He said 36 firefighters, supported by two helicopters and four planes, were fighting the blaze in the Soufli area of Evros.
Defense Minister Nikos Dendias announced that he was cutting short his trip to Dubai to return to Greece so that he could “oversee the greatest contribution of the armed forces to deal with the consequences of the bad weather”.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis postponed its annual address on the state of the economy and a press conference scheduled for this weekend in the northern city of Thessaloniki in order to visit the flooded areas.
Police have banned traffic in three areas, including the island of Skiathos, and sent numerous emergency phone alerts to residents in several parts of the country to avoid venturing outside and moving away basements and ground floors of buildings.
The storm, dubbed Daniel, was expected to begin to gradually subside Thursday evening.
Repeated torrential rains also hit the Greek capital on Wednesday, flooding streets and turning part of a major avenue in central Athens into a river of mud that swept people away.
The National Art Gallery in the city center was also flooded, but none of the paintings on display were damaged, the culture ministry said Thursday.
Associated Press writer Suzan Fraser, Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.
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