Greece has two dead, at least one missing and extensive damage after being hit by a “Mediterranean cyclone”, a rare phenomenon for the region, characterized by violent gusts and heavy rainfall.
Baptized Ianos, this hurricane having “tropical characteristics” according to scientists, hit mainly Thessaly, the great plain of the country and the city of Karditsa, 300 kilometers north of Athens, in the night from Friday to Saturday.
A man in his sixties was found dead on Saturday in a sheepfold near Karditsa. In the nearby town of Farsala, firefighters also discovered a woman in her sixties dead in her flooded house.
In Mouzaki, a neighboring town, a 40-year-old woman is reported missing after her car was washed away by the Pamissos River.
Karditsa and other towns in the region suffered power and water cuts, and were hit by fallen trees and flooded with torrents of mud.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed on his Twitter his “condolences” for the loss of lives and called on his fellow citizens to “be vigilant”.
He promised that all the stricken regions would benefit from “support” from the state.
The water level rose by one meter in Karditsa due to heavy rainfall reaching 250 mm / h, according to meteorologist Kostas Lagouvardos.
Many buildings, homes, shops and warehouses were devastated, and firefighters were called on Saturday to rescue hundreds of people whose homes were flooded.
500 rescue operations
They have so far carried out 500 rescue operations, according to their service.
The road and rail network suffered extensive damage, particularly in Thessaly.
The cyclone was heading towards the south of the country on Saturday, in the Peloponnese. Many houses were flooded during heavy rainfall in the city of Corinth.
He is due to reach the island of Crete on Saturday evening but “he will be more weakened,” Kostas Lagouvardos told AFP.
For two days, the Civil Protection service in Greece has been on alert and the authorities have called for postponing all non-essential travel in the affected regions.
On Friday, it was the islands of the Ionian Sea in the west that had been hit by this hurricane causing flooding and power cuts on the islands of Zakynthos, Lefkada, Ithaca, Kefalonia and Corfu.
A boat carrying 55 migrants sent a distress message off the coast of the southern Peloponnese on Friday, but the Greek coastguard was unable to rescue it.
On Saturday, research was underway but “it is possible that the boat has changed direction,” a coast guard official told AFP.
Cyclone Ianos could nevertheless be “less severe than expected, although still ongoing,” Efthymios Lekkas, professor of natural disaster management at the University of Athens, told AFP on Friday.
Two years ago, in September 2018, another “Mediterranean cyclone” of this kind (called “medicane”) called Xenophon, had two deaths in Greece, especially affecting the island of Euboea, near Athens.
“Cyclones or hurricanes in the Mediterranean have tropical characteristics like those in the Atlantic, but they often have a smaller volume and are less intense”, explains Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the Athens Observatory.
He stresses that this “rare” phenomenon, which manifests itself especially in the western and central Mediterranean, has been observed “for the last forty years and is accompanied by violent gusts and heavy rainfall”.
For the moment, “these cyclones are not linked to climate change, because we have not observed an increase in their frequency in recent years,” said Kostas Lagouvardos.