3 people have been confirmed dead and 2 more are missing after a powerful hurricane struck Greece.
The cyclone, known as "Ianos", hit the country on Thursday, September 17, 2020, and persisted throughout the weekend. It mostly affected central and western Greece (including the Ionian Islands) and the island of Crete.
Data from NASA's Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) showed that central and western Greece received more than 150 millimeters of precipitation while the Ionian Islands more than 300 millimeters, respectively, during the storm.
According to Kostas Lagouvardos, Research Director at the National Observatory of Athens (NOA), Mediterranean hurricanes (also known as "Medicanes") have similar characteristics to Atlantic heavy storms but they are usually less extensive and have a smaller volume.
Some scientists correlate such weather phenomena in the Mediterranean with climate change. “Such intense phenomena are linked to the climate crisis. (They) are forecast to occur with ever more frequency." E. Lekkas, Professor of Dynamic Tectonic Applied Geology and Disaster Management at National Kapodistrian University of Athens, stated.
The Ionian islands and western Peloponnese were hit first by the cyclone that caused extensive power outages, floods, landslides and rockfalls.
In Cephalonia, 40 boats sunk and many ports of the island suffered critical damage. The village of Assos was devastated by the extreme phenomenon as floods swept away debris including rock boulders that settled in the village and highly impacted local infrastructure. Houses, vehicles and stores were completely destroyed and power cuts lasted for more than 3 days. People could not evacuate the region since the roads are damaged while authorities struggled to find a solution to approach the area. “We could hear the roar from the rocks that ran through the village, it was shocking…”, a local woman stated.
Similar conditions were reported in the islands of Zante and Lefkada. The wind power temporarily reached a value of 10 in the Beaufort wind force scale. Ports were highly impacted by rainfalls and streams which resulted in extensive flooding; roads were devastated by landslides and were closed while the landscape has been affected by the incident. In the port of Vasiliki, Lefkada Island, two sandy beaches have been completely vanished according to local officials.
In Thessaly, an administrative region located in central Greece, the hurricane triggered massive destruction. Numerous villages and towns were flooded particularly around Karditsa, a major city in the region. Many people were trapped as strong currents uprooted trees, destroyed bridges and blocked roadways. In the city of Karditsa, an estimated of 5,000 residences were found to be flooded after the storm had passed. According to officials, mudflows struck many buildings in the center of the city which partially collapsed
In the surrounding regions, local infrastructure, fields and agricultural facilities were totally destroyed. The economic impact of the disaster is huge, considering the depression caused during this year due to the COVID-19 situation.
In the town of Mouzaki, situated northwest of Karditsa, the water level of the Pamisos river reached unprecedented levels. Its river bed extended its initial limits and flooded the surrounding region. Nearby roads collapsed into the river sweeping away a local health center. A historic bridge also collapsed due to the force of the water.
Α 43-year old woman was driving her car when it was swept away by water flows and ended up into the river. Her body was recovered days later about 7-9 kilometers away from the initial point of the incident.
Unfortunately, 2 more people have been confirmed dead. One farmer died after the roof of his house collapsed while another one was found dead on this farm. Both persons were located in villages around Karditsa.
The storm then proceeded its course to reach the island of Crete where similar disasters occurred. Heavy rainfalls caused floods and power outages while powerful winds cumbered the operation of an airport in Heraklion, the most populated city of the island. Three Airplanes could not approach the airport and had to travel to other destinations for a safe landing.
Greek Fire Departments across the country were quickly mobilized to address the challenging conditions. Firefighters managed to evacuate people trapped and utilized pumps to alleviate flooding in critical areas.
Many municipalities remained isolated since rescue teams could not reach them using terrestrial equipment. 6 persons were evacuated from a small village via a helicopter mission.
State engineers are currently evaluating the extensive damage caused to infrastructure. The road network of the country needs immediate repairs. According to officials, severe damage has been reported in the national highway between the cities of Karpenissi and Lamia. Building and pipe networks have also been affected. Engineers suggest that repair works must rapidly commence so that the following winter will not make the conditions even worse.
A €37 million ($43 million) fund will be dedicated to the affected areas according to the Greek Government. The funding includes financial support to the impacted municipalities, the businesses and the citizens.
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