Greece: Severe storm, floods batter Athens, fire-hit island

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Severe storms swept across Greece Thursday, flooding hundreds of homes in Athens and prompting evacuations on the island of Evia that was ravaged by summer wildfires.

Rescuers were also preparing to use helicopters to lift stranded people off rooftops in flooded and remote areas on the northwestern island of Corfu, Civil Protection and Climate Change Minister Christos Stylianides said.

“There is no doubt that we are facing a dangerous weather phenomenon that is very serious in some parts of the country,” said Stylianides, a former European commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management.

On Evia, at least three areas hit by the wildfires in August were being evacuated. Several dozen people were moved out of their homes in the north of the island and were making arrangements to stay with friends or at hotel rooms booked by the regional authority.

The forest fires in northern Evia, about 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Athens, left the area more vulnerable to flash floods.

Thursday’s storms battered the Greek capital and other parts of southern Greece, causing traffic disruptions and road closures. The fire service received more than 300 calls in the capital to pump water out of flooded homes, authorities said. Dozens of vehicles were stranded on flooded roads, forcing the people inside to abandon their vehicles and wade through the water to safety.

The heavy rainfall also disrupted public transport services, but flights at Athens International Airport were unaffected.

The government issued push alerts in Greek and English to cellphones in affected areas, urging people to “avoid unnecessary movement and areas that have been or may be flooded.”

Schools in Athens, on Evia and in a region in northern Greece near the country’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki will be closed Friday.

The weather is expected to improve Saturday. ___ Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Athens and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece contributed.

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