Greece lives a day of mourning for the floods, which leave at least 16 dead

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Flash rains on 15 November, which followed a strong overnight storm, caused flooding in the west of the country. Rescue teams are looking for five people who are still missing.

The Greek government has declared November 16 a day of national mourning in memory of the victims of flash floods in the western outskirts of Athens, the country’s capital.

Greek health authorities have reported that there are 15 people who, so far, have died as a result of the weather phenomenon, while 12 of the 23 people initially injured remain hospitalized.

The European country’s National Health Operations Center has assured that one of those hospitalized, an 82-year-old woman, is in serious condition in an intensive care unit, while the other 11 are out of danger.

Greece’s health ministry said 15 dead, five women and 10 men, were taken to a local hospital during Wednesday’s floods. The bodies of 12 of those killed were recovered by firefighters, who carried out rescue and rescue operations, while the coastguard recovered the bodies of two men who were washed out to sea.

For its part, the firefighters of Greece assured that a man who had been reported missing was found alive, while they received a new complaint for ignorance of the whereabouts of a hunter. In total, officers are trying to locate five people.

The fire department said the person found was an elderly man, found in the Mandra area on the western outskirts of Athens, the area most affected by the floods.

Additionally, officers reported that since the start of the tasks, they have received more than 600 requests for assistance in draining water from buildings and rescued 86 people who were trapped in their vehicles and homes. They also said they deployed 190 officers in 55 vehicles. All Athens fire departments have been put on alert as the bad weather is expected to continue.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras traveled to Mandra, the region where 13 of the 16 deaths recorded so far originated, and chaired an emergency meeting with Interior Minister Panos Skurtetis; Deputy Minister of Citizen Protection, Nikos Toskas; the president of Attica, Rena Duru, and the firefighters.

Residents face difficult cleaning and reconstruction tasks

The area hardest hit by the floods was Mandra, a modest working-class district on the western outskirts of the Greek capital, where nearly all the deaths were recorded. Authorities said around 500 homes and businesses were damaged.

Since November 16, the inhabitants of this district and other areas affected by the floods have begun the difficult work of cleaning and reconstruction after the devastation caused by the surprising phenomenon. However, this work was hampered by a new rain front.

The flooding, which followed a heavy storm overnight, turned roads into torrents of mud and debris that swept away cars, brought down walls and inundated one of the main roads.

Cars were left piled on top of each other or thrown against buildings after being swept away by water currents. Some homes and businesses have seen exterior walls crumble, leaving interiors exposed. Debris, twisted metal and broken vehicles littered the roads.

The rainfall caused landslides in nearby mountains, where recent fires had destroyed large swaths of forest, leaving the mountain unprotected from landslides.

Further storms hit the Greek capital on November 16, temporarily disrupting traffic on one of Athens’ central avenues, although they did not cause comparable severe flooding the day before.

For their part, the judicial authorities ordered an immediate investigation into the deaths and the material damage. Investigators will seek to determine whether factors such as faulty or illegal construction worsened the effects of the flooding.

According to experts, one of the reasons that could cause such a scale of damage is the uncontrolled construction on old riverbeds and the poor condition of the pipeline.

For Greece, it is the biggest disaster of its kind since November 1977, when 37 people died in Athens in a storm that flooded much of the capital.

With AP, Reuters and EFE

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