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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsWeather Extremes, Rail Disaster, and a Migrant Tragedy: Greece in 2023

Weather Extremes, Rail Disaster, and a Migrant Tragedy: Greece in 2023

Greece 2023
The devasting floods in Thessaly followed destructive wildfires. Credit: Kostas Tsioukas/Facebook

Weather extremes including heatwaves, wildfires, and floods as well as the rail disaster at Tempi have defined 2023 in Greece.

However, there was also some good news including the improvement in relations with Turkey and the resurgence of the Greek economy.

Here is a flashback to 2023 in Greece

Greece 2023
57 people were killed in the worst rail accident in Greece. Credit: AMNA

On February 28th, the worst rail disaster in Greek history occurred when a passenger train and a freight train collided in Tempi, Larissa, located in Thessaly, killing 57 people and injuring more than 85 others.

It was discovered that the passenger train had been allowed to proceed on the wrong track and pass signals of danger ahead despite the presence of the freight train on the same track.

Vigils, angry protests, and clashes with the police occurred throughout Greece following the accident.

An overcrowded fishing boat carrying migrants.
People covered practically every free stretch of the deck on a battered fishing boat before it sank. Credit: Hellenic Coast Guard

On June 14th, an Italy-bound rusty, aging, overloaded fishing trawler smuggling migrants sank in international waters off the coast of Pylos, Messenia in Greece.

The boat, named Adriana, carried an estimated four hundred to seven hundred and fifty migrants, mostly from Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and some from Afghanistan. More than a hundred were rescued, and sevety-eight bodies recovered.

On July 25th, two Hellenic Airforce officers were killed when a Canadair CL-215 waterbomber crashed on Evia island while it was trying to put out a wildfire. Wildfires ravaged Greece in 2023, fueled by the hot and dry conditions caused by heat waves.

The islands of Rhodes and Evia were particularly affected. On Rhodes, thousands of tourists were evacuated from local resorts as the wildfire burned out of control for several days. In late August, a wildfire in Evros in northeastern Greece burned uncontrollably for weeks and was declared the largest the EU has ever faced. It destroyed homes and caused multiple evacuations of villages and the city’s hospital.

Eighteen migrants perished in the wildfire. Their charred bodies were discovered by firefighters in the Dadia Forest, which is a national park.

People being saved by rescuers in the recent catastrophic floods in Greece
Thessaly was turned into a lake. Credit: AMNA

Floods followed the devasting wildfires in September. The flooding in Thessaly, Greece’s worst on record, devastated the fertile region, swept away agricultural land, roads and railways, and killed 16 people.

It was the second major flood in three years to hit Thessaly, part of a pattern of worsening extreme weather in Europe. Commenting on the the extreme weather phenomena, Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said “Greece is facing a war in a time of peace.”

On January 10th, former King Constantine II died at age eighty-two. He was the last Greek monarch, reigning from 1964 to 1973 and was laid to rest at the former royal residence of Tatoi north of Athens.

Mitsotakis’ New Democracy Party (ND) won a resounding victory in the Parliamentary elections held on June 25th. ND got 40.55 percent, followed by SYRIZA at 17.84 percent. PASOK was at 11.85 percent with the Communist Party following at 7.69 percent.

2023 was not just bad news

Greece 2023
Greek PM Mitsotakis welcomes Turkish President Erdogan in Athens. Credit: Press Office of the Greek PM

Greece and Turkey, two NATO allies with a long history of strained relations, made significant strides toward improving their ties in 2023.

In a landmark visit to Athens on December 7, 2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis signed a non-binding declaration of friendship and agreed to work towards doubling their bilateral trade to $10 billion (€9.3 billion).

The declaration also called for the two countries to refrain from aggressive statements and take steps to reduce military tension in the Aegean Sea. The Greek economy experienced a period of solid growth in 2023, driven by strong consumer spending and investment. The economy expanded by an estimated 2.5 percent in 2023, compared to 2.3 percent in 2022.

According to The Economist’s 2023 analysis, which is based on five economic and financial indicators (inflation, “inflation range,” GDP, jobs, and stock market performance), Greece achieved the highest marks in the economy among thirty-five primarily affluent countries this year.

In December, Fitch Ratings upgraded Greece’s ratings, giving the country a vote of confidence. Fitch was the fourth rating house to upgrade the investment in Greek bonds after Scope Ratings in August with DBRS doing so in September and S&P in October.

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