Summer Storms, Downpours Show Greece’s Infrastructure Failures

ATHENS – Just as before – and before that and before that and before that – another Greek government that promised to improve storm drainage systems was caught off guard with a series of summer storms and heavy rains.

Streets flooded in the Greek capital – as they always do during downpours – because there aren’t enough outlets for water during storms, noted Kathimerini, the problem growing more acute.

“Just as we learned what to do in an earthquake, we should learn in school what to do in a flood,” Geology and Disaster Prevention Professor Efthymios Lekkas told the paper, no indication any government official was paying attention.

This risk is particularly acute in Piraeus, Kallithea, Moschato, Rentis, Peristeri, Agioi Anargyroi, Nea Liosia and the city center where even moderate rain can be a problem and heavy rain near disastrous.

Lekkas said that until around 2000, the Kifissos, Ilisos and Iridanos rivers were the main recipients of rainwater, but construction has forced the water to secondary streams, those rivers long ago paved over for development.

“Flood levels are increasing as water has no way to reach the sea,” he said, adding that drainage infrastructure is not up to today’s standards and there aren’t any plans to do anything about it.

Storms swept across the country for several days at the height of what looks to be another record-breaking tourism season, during the waning COVID-19 pandemic, with a weather station in Kavontoro reporting 102 milliliters (4.01 inches) of rain and Agios Steganos in Attica with 63 milliliters (2.48 inches.)

At the same time, the lightning tracking system Zeus identified 48,845 lightning strikes over Greece in one day and  more than 50 sheep were killed in the region of Vlacha in Metsovo, northern Greece, after they were struck by lightning during a midday thunderstorm.

State broadcaster ERT said the frequent thunderstorms were particularly intense with scores of thousands of lightning strikes recorded and thunder so loud it sounded like a nuclear bomb in the distance.

“Greece has statistically probably the highest number of deaths than other countries in Europe due to lightning,” said the training director of the Hellenic Rescue Team, Zafiris Trombakas, in an interview with the Athens-Macedonian News Agency’s radio station.

Lightning struckduring a nighttime trail race up a Greek mountain, killing one runner and seriously injuring another, Greek police and the fire service reported but no names were given.

The two men were running in the Six Peaks race, which passes through the six highest peaks of Mount Falakro in northern Greece, when lightning struck a group of runners at an altitude of 4,400 feet, a police officer told The Associated Press.

Two fire service rescue squads came up the mountain from the nearby town of Drama to find one runner, 55, already dead and another, 56, seriously injured. The injured runner was airlifted to a hospital in the city of Kavala, where authorities said he was in serious condition.

Elsewhere around the country, the storms flooded villages and the basements of homes but unlike those in the community of Mandra west of Athens, where  25 people died in floods in 2017.

A court ruling cleared former Attica Governor Rena Dourou and four  others of criminal charges related to flood, for which she was of dereliction of duty and manslaughter by negligence, among other charges but now she and others acquitted will have to face trial again, said Kathimerini.

The charges included alleged negligence for ignoring violations of building construction codes blamed for the deadly floods that caught 25 victims by surprise in their houses and cars.


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