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No Warning Texts Sent Before Deadly Flood On Evia Island

After sudden floods on the major Greek island of Evia north of Athens killed seven people, including an eight-month-old baby, Deputy Minister for Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias said no warning text messages were sent because it happened so fast.

That left the New Democracy government in the awkward position of defending itself after bitterly criticizing the former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA's chaotic response to July 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people, and to deadly floods in Mandra.

“Everything happened very suddenly. It was very important that we were monitoring the phenomena from the beginning … we knew that in the wider area there would be a problem, of course with less data, but in any case the (civil defense])mechanism was not caught off guard,” he told journalists during a visit to the area.

“If (emergency number) 112 operated, we would have had hundreds of deaths. When you have a (developing) phenomenon you do not call for an evacuation. How could we have asked for an evacuation when the area outside is flooded?” he added.

Hardalias said the 112 emergency number was ready but it is “an operational tool that is not for every incident,” without explaining why a deadly flood wasn't an emergency incident and that people should have received messages on their mobile phones.

The government had made a big show of putting the 112 number in operation and said it would be used for incidents such as the flood then said that it wasn't needed even though the rain storm that caused the flood was being tracked.

He said officials expected there would be 63 millimeters (2.48 inches) of rain in 24 hours – a prodigious amount – but that 350 millimeters (13.8 inches) fell instead, catching officials off guard even though they were watching it.

Firefighters found the bodies of a woman, 38, and her husband, 42, outside their home in the inland village of Amfithea on the island that is connected to the mainland by a bridge that couldn't be used, leaving only a ferry on the north end for accessibility.

Just before that, one of the missing persons, an elderly woman, was found at sea, holding on to a piece of furniture, and was rescued by helicopter, said Kathimerini.

The bodies of an 86-year-old man and his wife, 85, as well as the baby were found after a flood river through their homes in the village of Politika, north of the city of Halkida, about 100 kilometers (62.13 milees) from Athens.

The mayor in the area said the baby and its parents were on vacation but no details were given about the infant's death.

The fire service told the paper it had responded to 495 calls, of which 47 concerned people trapped in their homes and cars, with eight rescued by helicopter, with other calls to help drain flooded homes.

Some people  climbed to the rooftops of their homes, while others, caught by the sudden flood in the street, climbed up olive trees, the paper said, residents caught unawares when the heavy storm hit around midnight on Aug. 9, lightning also causing about 50 fires.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would visit on Aug. 10 and that he expressed “deep sorrow” for the victims and their families also affected.

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