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Torrential Rains in Greece Prompt Evacuation of High-Risk Areas

October 14, 2021

ATHENS — Authorities on the Greek island of Evia said several areas ravaged by summer wildfires were being evacuated Thursday following the second severe storm in less than a week.

Several dozen people were moved out of their homes in the north of the island and were making arrangements to stay with friends or at hotel rooms booked by the regional authority.

The newly-formed climate crisis and civil protection ministry on Thursday began to roll out a plan for the evacuation of residents in fire-stricken areas at a high risk for flooding, after the arrival of the low-pressure front “Ballos” brought torrential rain to the greater part of Greek territory.

Working with regional and municipal authorities, the ministry is taking the measure for the first time as part of a policy focused on prevention and the protection of human life as a top priority.

As ministry sources explained to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA), at the orders of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, a process of recording and evacuating residents of houses that are located in gullies and ravines or other locations in northern Evia where there is a serious risk of flooding.

Local authorities are also on standby in Attica, especially in Alepochori and areas in the rest of western Attica that were affected by fires in the summer.

Roads toward the burnt areas have been closed due to the risk of landslides and floods where people may become trapped.

The evacuations will be selective and mainly of people that are either elderly or have other problems that hamper their mobility in the case of flooding. They will be put up in hotels, community centres for the elderly and other spaces provided by local authorities for one or two days, until the weather front has passed.

The plan was decided on during a meeting at the civil protection headquarters on Wednesday.

“The idea is to pre-empt the unpleasant consequences from the severe phenomena,” a source told ANA, adding that the government expects severe storms in many areas from Thursday afternoon.

He explained that the areas considered at a high risk for flooding were those that have flooded in the past, which were well known to the local authorities that have undertaken the operational part of this process, while the plan calls for the Hellenic Police and the fire brigade EMAK units to be on high alert in these areas.

Northern Evia, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) northeast of Athens, suffered devastating fires over the summer, leaving the area more vulnerable to flash floods.

Storms battered the Greek capital and other parts of southern Greece, causing traffic disruption and some road closures.

The government issued push alerts in Greek and English to cellphones in affected areas, urging people to “avoid unnecessary movement and areas that have been or may be flooded.”

The fire brigade said it had received more than 260 calls for help due to problems caused by the heavy rain in the Attica region by Thursday afternoon. Specifically, there were 251 calls to pump water from flooded basements, eight to cut down trees posing a hazard and nine to rescue people trapped in their cars by floodwater.

The calls for help came from the districts of Glyfada, Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Nea Philadelphia and Nea Halkidona.

The heavy rain falling on Athens has disrupted the running of Line 1 of the Athens metro system, the former ISAP electric railway line between Piraeus and Kifissia.

According to metro operators STASY, due to flooding on the line, trains on Line 1 are running between Tavros Station and Piraeus and between Omonia Station and Kifissia. This means that no Line 1 trains are stopping at Monastiraki, Thissio and Petralona stations.

Athens tram drivers will suspend a scheduled work stoppage on Friday, their union said on Thursday, because of the adverse weather conditions expected to continue Friday.

Also postponed on Thursday afternoon are protests by the youth (KNE) of the Communist Party at the US Embassy in Athens and the Consulate in Thessaloniki. The organization is protesting the signing of the updated Greece-US Mutual Defense and Cooperation Agreement, they said, to “disengage Greece’s involvement from NATO’s and the EU’s dangerous imperialist plans.”

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