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Society

Five Months After Floods, Greece’s Agricultural Heartland Under Water

February 28, 2024

LARISA, Greece – Much of Greece’s agricultural heartland in Thessaly and surrounding plains is still a lake, five months after floods washed over the area, leaving farmers and other businesses adrift.

The government pumped in subsidies to help but vast fields remain underwater and unusable with worries that some lands could be infertile for years, the disaster adding to inflation that has seen food prices jump and supplies dwindle.

Farmer Babis Evangelinos told the news agency that, from a small motorboat he uses on the waters that underneath are the trunks of fruitless almond trees destroyed in the floods.

“I could never have imagined I would have to board a boat to get to see my land,” said Evangelinos as he drifted by his sodden trees. “Work of a lifetime ruined, gone in three, four days of rain.”

His small plot, near Lake Karla, is among tens of thousands of acres of cotton fields, almond trees and grazing lands that were wiped out by unprecedented flooding last year in one of Greece’s key breadbaskets.

https://www.reuters.com/business/environment/flooded-greek-lake-warning-european-farmers-battling-climate-change-2024-02-24/

It remains that way even as Greek farmers – as have others across Europe – protested for more aid because of rising costs and climate change, those in Greece using tractors to blockade some roads.

The September, 2023 Storm Daniel dumped 18 months of rain in four days – after deadly summer fires also ravaged lands and a record heat wave, Greece suffering countering extreme weather phenomena.

Daniel and another storm, Elias, flooded about 35,000 acres near Lake Karla in Thessaly plain, which accounts for 25 percent of Greece’s agricultural produce and 5 percent of annual income.  Some 30,000 farmers were impacted.

Evangelinos had just picked a one-ton batch of almonds before the rains came, washing it away. He would expect 10 tons over the season, about 20,000 euros ($21,638) worth, but managed just 40 percent. “It’s very sad. Because those trees you see now being 20 and 30 years old, you grow them out of a small branch.”

In Thessaly, farmers have so far received 150 million euros ($162 million) in compensation for the flooding. The government said another 110 million euros ($119 million) will come in July.

Local authorities proposed speeding recovery by using floating machines to pump out the water as early as April in one area, said Thessaly Governor Dimitris Kouretas. “There are several thousands of families living here. Do we want them to go?” he said. Some already have.

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