Floods, wind damage as rare ‘medicane’ storm hits Greece
A rare hurricane-like storm hit western Greece on Friday, disrupting travel and causing floods and power outages in several Ionian Sea islands.
“We face intense conditions with winds and very strong rainfall,” deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias told reporters.
Mediterranean cyclone Ianos, also known as a “medicane”, was packing violent winds of up to 117 kilometres (73 miles) per hour, according to the Greek civil protection agency.
“Trees are falling everywhere,” Ionian Islands governor Rodi Kratsa told state TV ERT.
Hardalias said there were no reports of injuries so far.
“The cyclone will remain in the west at the same intensity for another six to nine hours, and will then begin moving southwards,” he said.
The islands of Cephalonia, Ithaki and Zakynthos have been hit with power outages and part of the local road network has been cut off, he said.
Smaller problems have been reported on the islands of Corfu and Lefkada.
A parallel weather front will bring storms to central Greece later Friday, Hardalias said.
Two Ryanair flights to the Ionian island of Cephalonia were earlier unable to land at the local airport and were rerouted to Athens.
Local ferry services have also shut down.
After lashing the Ionian islands and parts of the western Greek mainland, the storm is later expected to move over the Peloponnese peninsula.
“We have another 36 hours of intense conditions ahead of us,” Kostas Lagouvardos, research director at the national observatory of Athens, told state TV ERT.
A Swiss sailing boat moored at the island of Ithaki was carried away by waves but its two passengers managed to make it to shore, state news agency ANA said.
Another boat sank at the harbour of Zakynthos but its Belgian occupants are unhurt, Kratsa said.
The civil protection agency has urged those in the storm’s path to refrain from non-essential travel and avoid basements.
“We had crews out earlier to clear roads, but we are now pulling them back,” the mayor of Cephalonia’s capital Argostoli, Dionysis Minetos, told ERT.
“It would be good for residents to stay indoors,” he said.
The civil protection agency on Thursday said it had relocated rescue teams with tracked vehicles to high-risk areas. Three rescue helicopters are also on standby.
A medicane hit Greece in September 2018, killing two people on the island of Evia.
In 2017, flash floods west of Athens left over 20 people dead in one of Greece’s worst natural disasters.