Severe storms swept through Greece on Thursday, inundating hundreds of homes in Athens and causing evacuations on the island of Evia which was ravaged by forest fires in the summer.
Rescuers were also preparing to use helicopters to lift people stranded from rooftops in flooded and remote areas on the island of Corfu in the northwest, Civil Protection and Climate Change Minister Christos Stylianides said.
“There is no doubt that we are facing a dangerous weather phenomenon which is very serious in parts of the country,” said Stylianides, former European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management.
In Evia, at least three areas affected by the forest fires in August were being evacuated. Several dozen people have been displaced from their homes in the north of the island and are organizing to stay with friends or in hotel rooms reserved by the regional authority.
Forest fires in northern Evia, about 130 kilometers north of Athens, have made the region more vulnerable to flash floods.
Cars abandoned after flooding
Thursday’s storms hit the Greek capital and other parts of southern Greece, causing traffic disruptions and road closures.
Firefighters have received more than 300 calls in the capital to pump water from flooded homes, authorities said.
Dozens of vehicles got stranded on flooded roads, forcing people inside to abandon their vehicles and wade through the water to safety.
Heavy rains also disrupted public transport services, but flights to Athens International Airport were not affected.
The government has issued push alerts in Greek and English on cell phones in affected areas, urging people to “avoid unnecessary travel and areas that have been or may be inundated.”
Schools in Athens, Evia and a region in northern Greece near the country’s second city, Thessaloniki, will be closed on Friday.
The weather should improve on Saturday.