ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Another village near a major Greek city was ordered evacuated Saturday afternoon as authorities frantically shored up flood defenses against a rising river following torrential rain earlier in the week.
Rescue crews were evacuating stranded residents from already flooded areas in the central region of Thessaly. The death toll still stood at 10, with four people missing.
The village of Omorfochori, about 8 kilometers (5 kilometers) by road from the city of Larissa, Thessaly’s capital and largest city, was ordered evacuated by SMS alert due to the rising water of the Pineios river. Residents were directed to a town to the southeast.
But the main concern remains that the already overflowing river could inundate Larissa itself, a city of around 150,000. Authorities placed bags full of sand and pebbles along the river’s banks, while opening up diversion channels west of the city.
The governor of Thessaly, Kostas Agorastos, who was visiting one of the worst stricken areas in the southwest of the region, was evacuated by police Saturday afternoon after a small crowd of protesters started shouting abuse at him and then jostled him, a video posted on social media showed.
Agorastos, a member of the ruling conservative New Democracy party, said Friday that local and regional elections cannot take place in Thessaly as scheduled on Oct. 8, with runoffs a week later. First elected governor in 2010, Agorastos is running for a fourth term.
The proximity of the local and regional polls has intensified the usual blame game from opposition parties eager to dent New Democracy’s supremacy that was confirmed in the last national elections in May and June. New Democracy controls 11 out of the country’s 13 regions.
But there has been much criticism about state and local authorities’ response to the latest disaster to hit Greece, hard on the heels of devastating wildfires.
The rescue response to the floods that resulted from torrential rains that hit the area from Tuesday to Thursday was negligible until early Thursday, while people were clinging to the roofs of their stricken homes, according to a report in Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini. The same paper reported Saturday that, of the Air Force’s 12 search-and-rescue Puma helicopters, only four are operational, with the rest either cannibalized for spare parts or grounded for so long that they can no longer fly.
There are also questions about the ability of regional and local authorities to deal with major crises, despite the expansion in responsibilities and funding under reforms enacted over a decade ago.