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Floods, wind damage as rare medicane storm hits Greece

  • Published at 06:14 pm September 18th, 2020
Greece Medicane
A destroyed wooden construction is seen at the beach in the village of Gastouni, as a rare storm, known as a Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane) hit western Greece, September 18, 2020 Reuters

In 2017, flash floods west of Athens left over 20 people dead in one of Greece's worst natural disasters

A rare hurricane-like storm hit western Greece on Friday, disrupting travel and causing floods and power outages on 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, an unusual phenomenon also known as a "medicane", packed violent winds of up to 117 kilometres per hour according to the Greek civil protection agency.

The coastguard on Friday said a boat believed to be carrying 55 migrants was in distress off the western Peloponnese amid the gale-force winds.

"For the time being we are unable to send a vessel to help," a coastguard spokeswoman told AFP. Other ships sailing nearby had been requested to assist, the coastguard said.

"Trees are falling everywhere," Ionian Islands governor Rodi Kratsa told state TV ERT.

Minister Hardalias said there were no reports of injuries so far, adding that forecasts see the cyclone shifting southwards later Friday.

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.

The migration ministry on Friday said over 800 asylum seekers from three camps near Athens would be relocated as a precaution.

The 778 migrants from the camps of Elaionas, Malakasa and Schisto would be moved to a conference hall in Athens. Another 28 minors from the camp of Skaramangas would be temporarily rehoused in a hotel, it said.

'Intense conditions'

"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 were unhurt, Kratsa said.

The civil protection agency has urged those in the storm's path to refrain from non-essential travel and avoid basements.

On Thursday the agency said it had relocated rescue teams with tracked vehicles to high-risk areas and held three rescue helicopters 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.