Residents on the western fringes of the Greek capital struggled Thursday to clean up the devastation from flash floods that swept through their neighborhoods a day earlier, while the death toll rose as rescue crews searching for missing people recovered another body.
The number of deaths from Wednesday’s flooding increased to 16 after firefighters found the body of a man in the swamped basement of a home in the Nea Peramos district west of Athens.
Search and rescue operations were continuing Thursday for four more people reported missing since the floods turned roads into violent torrents of mud and debris.
The disaster was among the worst to hit the Greek capital in decades, and the government declared a day of national mourning. Flags across the country flew at half-staff Thursday, including at the ancient Acropolis landmark in Athens.
The hardest hit area was Mandra, a modest working-class district on the western outskirts of the Greek capital, where nearly all the fatalities occurred. Authorities said about 500 homes and businesses were damaged.
Wednesday’s flash floods, which came after a severe overnight storm, carried away vehicles, collapsed walls, sank fishing boats and submerged a section of a major highway.
“There is huge damage. Inestimable damage,” Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki told local media.
Twelve of the 23 injured remained hospitalized, including an 82-year-old woman listed as being in serious condition in an intensive care unit, the National Health Operations Center said.
Cars lay piled on top of each other or flung against buildings after being carried away by the torrents sweeping through the area’s streets. Some houses and businesses saw outer walls collapse, leaving the interior exposed to the elements. Rubble, twisted metal and smashed vehicles lined the roads.
“As you can see, everything is a mess,” said local resident Katerina Sideri.
More storms lashed the Greek capital on Thursday, temporarily severing traffic on one of Athens’ main central avenues, although they did not cause flash floods.
Local municipalities were providing hotel rooms for those left homeless, while the Merchant Marine Ministry said it was making arrangements for a cruise ship to dock on the coast near the affected area to provide temporary accommodation. It also said arrangements were being made with the army and navy to provide water tankers to transport clean water to residents.
Nearly all the injuries and fatalities occurred in Mandra and the surrounding area. Twelve of the dead were found there, while the bodies of two men were picked up by the coast guard after having been swept out to sea by the flood.
The victims ranged in ages from mid-30s to 80s, and included a truck driver swept away by floodwater, a hunter and several people who drowned in their flooded homes. Most of those who died had drowned, a coroner at the hospital told local reporters, while some appeared to have died from injuries sustained from debris being carried by the floodwater.
The fire department said Thursday it had received 660 calls for help to pump water from flooded homes and businesses since Wednesday morning, while it had rescued 88 people trapped in houses and vehicles. All fire services in the wider Athens area remained on alert as more bad weather was forecast for the area.