As deadly Greek rainstorm ebbs, a trail of devastation emerges

By Angeliki Koutantou and Stamos Prousalis

KARDITSA, Greece (Reuters) – Receding floodwaters revealed a trail of devastation in central Greece left by torrential rain that raged for three days, killing at least six people and causing billions of euros in damage.

Hundreds of people remained trapped Friday in their homes or on high ground in the central plain of Thessaly, which bore the brunt of Storm Daniel’s relentless deluge.

Homes were washed away by torrents, vital infrastructure was destroyed and crops in the country’s second largest tract of farmland were wiped out.

“I think we have not yet realized the magnitude of this disaster,” professor Efthymios Lekkas, an expert on disaster management, told state broadcaster ERT on Friday.

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

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was due to visit the emergency-hit area on Friday, his office said. He canceled a trip scheduled for Saturday to the northern city of Thessaloniki, where he was due to deliver his annual keynote address on the state of the economy.

Speaking to ERT, Thessaly governor Kostas Agorastos said he estimated the storm caused about three times the 700 million euros ($750 million) caused by widespread flooding in 2020.

More than 1,800 people have been rescued from flood-hit areas across Greece since Tuesday, the fire service said.

In the village of Vlochos near the town of Karditsa, about 150 people have been waiting for help for three days.

“We were on the mountain,” Dimitris, one of the helpless villagers, told Skai television. “It’s the third day without food, without anything. We lit fires yesterday to cook whatever we managed to grab from our refrigerators.”

In some places flood water was still 2 meters (6-1/2 feet) deep.

One of the breadbaskets of Greece, Thessaly represents approximately 15 percent of the country’s annual agricultural production. It is also an important cotton producing area.

Torrential rains left more than a meter of silt dumped on once fertile soils. “Agricultural production is not destroyed just for this year. The thick layer of silt means it is no longer fertile.” Lekkas said.

($1 = 0.9328 euros)

(Additional reporting by Michele Kambas; Writing by Michele Kambas; Editing by John Stonestreet)

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