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Death Toll Rises as Greece Grapples With Storm Daniel

In this photo provided by the Greek Prime Minister's Office, evacuees from flooded villages arrive by helicopter at a soccer stadium, in Karditsa, Thessaly region, central Greece, Sept. 8, 2023.

Rescue crews have begun airlifting hundreds of people trapped in dozens of Greek hamlets after four days of cataclysmic rainfall left at least 7 people dead and an unknown number missing.

Rains from Daniel, the worst storm to hit Greece in 75 years, turned small streets in the country's farming heartland of Thessaly into waterways that uprooted village huts. Rivers swelled, dams burst, and bridges broke.

Hardest hit has been the region of Karditsa, where six people, all elderly women and shepherds, were found under mounds of debris, washed away by floodwaters in their attempt to evacuate their homes.

Officially, six people remain missing, but locals and crew contacted by VOA predict greater numbers. In the village of Palamas alone, on the outskirts of Karditsa, residents phoning into local TV stations spoke of more than 60 villagers missing on Friday.

Floodwaters cover a suburb after the country's record rainstorm, in Larissa, Thessaly region, central Greece, Sept. 8, 2023.
Floodwaters cover a suburb after the country's record rainstorm, in Larissa, Thessaly region, central Greece, Sept. 8, 2023.

Authorities liken the storm to what they call a "biblical catastrophe," placing several parts of the Thessaly plain in a state of emergency, and allowing the country's military to be called in to help on Thursday.

But by then, Daniel had wreaked unprecedented damage, and left the nation angry about the government's delayed response.

Emergency services on Friday were seen using divers, lifeboats and 80 all-weather military helicopters to reach stranded people across Thessaly, mainly in Karditsa.

Sofia, an elderly woman who managed to escape to a relative's home, described the horror of her ordeal.

"I was left on the rooftop of my home for days before someone came with a plastic life raft and helped me down," she said. "I would have drowned, because the water had reached 2 meters high."

Like thousands of others in the region, Sofia said she received no notification to evacuate and seek safety on higher ground.

"I am left with nothing. Zero," she said. "The government now has to help us."

Other farmers, including Christos Theodoropoulos, are mad.

"Nothing is left. Nothing," he shouted. "No official has come to help us. I am embarrassed that this is 2023 and this has happened."

In 2020, the region was hit by a ferocious cyclone.

But since then, locals say authorities have failed to build necessary infrastructure to shield the region — leaving it, thousands of residents and livestock at the mercy of nature.