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Cyclone Ianos: Two dead and one missing after 'rare extreme weather phenomenon' hits Greece

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A wind forecast from windy.com shows Cyclone Ianos approaching Greece at 18h00 CET on September 17, 2020.
A wind forecast from windy.com shows Cyclone Ianos approaching Greece at 18h00 CET on September 17, 2020.   -   Copyright  source: windy.com
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Two people have died and one more is reported as missing after a rare Mediterranean cyclone battered Greece overnight on Friday.

The hurricane-strength storm made landfall in the country's western islands, bringing lashing rain and gales, causing flooding, landslides and power cuts on the islands of Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca and parts of the mainland.

Authorities identified the two victims as an elderly woman found dead in her flooded home and a 63-year-old shepherd who was swept by rising floodwaters in the central Greek region of Thessaly.

They said a woman who ignored firefighter and police instructions not to drive into an area where a bridge spans a river is missing.

The country’s firefighting service said on early Saturday that it had fielded almost 2,500 calls from trapped residents in central and western Greece or about removing fallen trees that were blocking roads or had caused property damage.

The service reported rescuing more than 600 people.

The Greek coastguard also said a boat off the western Peloponnese peninsula, believed to be carrying 55 migrants, was in distress on Friday, according to AFP news agency.

Nikiforos Stamenis/AP
Waves break on a seaside tavern during a storm at the port of Argostoli, on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, western Greece, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.Nikiforos Stamenis/AP
Nikiforos Stamenis/AP
Damaged power and telecommunication lines are seen during a storm at the port of Argostoli, on the Ionian island of Kefalonia, western Greece, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020.Nikiforos Stamenis/AP

Water from a river that burst its banks damaged at least two bridges and several buildings, including the local health centre in the Thessaly town of Mouzaki, which has collapsed.

The operators of Greece's national railway, Trainose, said services linking the north and south of the country were suspended in wake of the storm.

The Mediterranean cyclone or 'medicane', named Ianos, hit Lefkada Island on Friday morning, according to the Hellenic National Meteorological Service.

It then hit parts of western and central mainland Greece.

Maximum sustained winds were 100 km/h just before landfall.

"We are preparing to face a rare extreme weather phenomenon," Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that citizens living in regions likely to be affected by the weather front should limit their movements to only those that are strictly necessary.

"Mediterranean cyclones are relatively rare phenomena, which we have encountered in Greece since 1995, but they have intensified and become more frequent in the Mediterranean region due to climate change," Hardalias added.

The weather event form in the same way and look like the tropical cyclones as those seen in the US, but are weaker, generally shorter in life, and smaller in size than tropical cyclones.

The minister told national media on Friday that the islands of Kefalonia, Zante and Ithaca were being hit hard by Ianos.

On Wednesday he called on the citizens of Achaia, Arcadia, the Argolid, Viotia (Boeotia), Etoloakarnania, Fokida, Attica and Evia, who live in areas that have flooded in the past or are near rivers, streams or shorelines, to avoid going in basements and ground floors for prolonged periods of time.

He also urged them to stay with relatives or friends if possible and avoid crossing rivers or flooded roads "for any reason, either on foot or by vehicle."