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Greece Seeks EU Help as Death Toll From Floods Climbs to 16

Floods Greece
Residents are being evacuated from flooded areas by the army. Credit: AMNA

Greece has asked for EU assistance after devasting floods in the region of Thessaly claimed the lives of at least 16 people and destroyed a large part of the agriculture in the region.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis sent a letter to EU Commission Chief Ursula von der Leyen seeking the “maximum possible” financial aid from the EU.

Before a meeting with von der Leyen on Tuesday in Strasbourg, the Greek leader said, “Europe must stand by our country […] we demand from Europe to rise to the occasion.”

The number of confirmed deaths from the flooding in Thessaly rose to 16 after the bodies of four people previously considered missing were found on Sunday.

Three of the bodies were located in villages near the city of Karditsa in Western Thessaly. They are an 88-year-old woman and her 65-year-old son, who were found in their home, as well as a 58-year-old man whose body was found between two villages.

The coast guard said Sunday that the body of a 42-year-old man that had been missing since Tuesday, was found floating in the sea near the city of Volos. He was last seen in his car unable to control it in raging waters.

The “bread-basket” of Greece was devastated by the floods

Thessaly is regarded as the “bread-basket” of Greece. The water has receded but left a muddy layer on otherwise rich agricultural lands. Restoring them to fertile conditions will take years, and will involve much more than restoring power and water and clearing up debris.

Roughly twelve percent of Greece’s cultivated lands are located in Thessaly, and agriculture’s contribution to the regional economy is an outsized thirty-five percent.

The region produces nearly forty percent of Greece’s cotton. In turn, Greece produces eight percent of Europe’s cotton. It is also one of the main tobacco-producing areas in the country.

A wide range of crops are grown, including cereals, legumes, beets, watermelons, and melons. Corn, tomato, and apple crops have been destroyed by the floods over the past few days.

The unprecedented flash floods were triggered by rainfall from the arrival of Storm Daniel on Monday, September 4th. The following day in the village of Zagora, on Mt. Pelion, a record-breaking thirty inches of rain fell in just eighteen hours.

“To put this in perspective, London gets about [twenty-three inches] of rain over the course of a year while Thessaly gets [twenty inches], meaning that on Tuesday, about 1.5 years’ worth of rain fell in 18 hours,” says Ioanna Stamataki, a Lecturer in Hydraulics and Water Engineering, University of Greenwich.

“Imagine the most torrential rain you have ever experienced, perhaps a cloudburst lasting 20 minutes or so,” she adds, writing in The Conversation. “Now imagine it raining that hard but without pause for an entire day.”

Those affected by floods will be compensated

Greece will stand by citizens who were affected by the floods, Mitsotakis said on Sunday, speaking from Larissa. He added that the special platform for those affected will open on Monday.

The Prime Minister said the main concern is public health, noting that farmers and breeders will be fully compensated.

“I know how difficult and how hard it is for farmers who lost their animals,” the PM said. “We want these people to stay in their place, to rebuild their livestock and I want them to know that we will be by their side in every step of this process.”

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