More than 800 people have been rescued from severe floods that hit Greece in the last two days, with torrential rainstorms turning streets into deadly rivers, and washing away infrastructure. These floods have affected neighboring Bulgaria and Turkey as well, bringing the total death toll to 16 across the three countries.
The Hardest-Hit Regions
- The Greek region of Thessaly, renowned as the country’s agricultural nucleus, experienced the worst of the deluge. Government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis termed it “the biggest flood phenomenon that our country has ever experienced.”
- Affected areas include the port city of Volos, the mountainous Pelion vicinity, and the cities of Karditsa and Trikala.
- Five villages near Karditsa — Proastio, Agia Triada, Palamas, Megala Kalyvia, and Kalogriana — have been isolated by the floodwaters.
- In Karditsa, residents were reported to have climbed their rooftops to escape rising waters and seek assistance.
Intensity of the Downpour
The rainstorms, which have persisted for days, are expected to relent from Thursday afternoon, as per Greece’s meteorological service. This intense rainfall resulted in floodwaters exceeding two meters (6.5 feet) in several regions.
Response to the Disaster
- Vasilis Vathrakogiannis, the mouthpiece of the fire department, spotlighted the critical role of swift water rescue experts, divers, and military personnel in the ongoing rescue missions.
- Despite running into roadblocks quite literally – think washed-away roads and dangerous conditions like frequent lightning strikes – our brave rescuers are bending over backward to get stranded folks to safety.
- The Greek army is throwing its weight behind these operations – helicopters have been pressed into service to reach those nearly unreachable areas where boats can’t cut it.
- Can you believe it? The fire service alone has been blitzed with a whopping 5,000-plus calls for help!
- Traffic constraints have been slapped on several parts of Thessaly following scary instances of torrents sweeping vehicles right off the roads.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, such extreme weather events are becoming increasingly frequent, with warmer oceans leading to more powerful and unpredictable storms. Their recent data indicates that the last three months have been the hottest ever recorded globally.
- Defense Minister Nikos Dendias returned from Dubai to oversee the Armed Forces’ efforts in combating the flooding aftermath.
- Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis postponed his State of the Economy address, scheduled for the weekend, to assess the situation in the flooded regions.
Rebuilding and Rehabilitation
The aftermath of disasters like the one in Greece often leaves citizens traumatized and displaced. Governments, in partnership with global organizations, should prioritize the immediate provision of basic necessities like food, water, and shelter to the affected. Counseling and psychological support for trauma victims. Swift assessment of damaged infrastructure and formulation of rebuilding plans. Financial aid and support for families who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
Wider Impact on Greece and Beyond
The flooding followed two weeks after wildfires blazed through northern Greece, resulting in 18 casualties. Regions including the Greek capital, Athens, witnessed floods that turned streets into mud rivers, sweeping people off their feet.
Furthermore, the record rainfall was held responsible for at least three deaths near Volos and Karditsa. In Turkey, flash floods killed five at a campsite, and two more perished in Istanbul. Bulgaria’s southern Black Sea coast also experienced storm-induced floods, leading to a total of four deaths.
Climate Change: A Global Concern
While pinpointing individual events to climate change requires scientific analysis, there’s consensus in the scientific community about the climate crisis amplifying extreme weather events.
Global warming, particularly human-caused, is seen as a significant factor in the recent surge of extreme weather events across Europe and the world. The United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, emphasized the urgency to act against climate change, terming it a “survival guide for humanity.” He urged wealthy nations to accelerate their carbon neutrality targets closer to 2040.
These back-to-back calamities — wildfires followed by unprecedented flooding — underscore the growing challenges faced by nations worldwide as they grapple with the evident consequences of climate change. Immediate and united global action is crucial to mitigate further environmental and human disasters and to ensure a sustainable and safer future for subsequent generations.