Severe weather Ballos: Dramatic hours – Athens under water

Climate Change & Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides announced the closure of all public services in Attica on Friday, in view to the second day of the severe ‘Ballos’ weather phenomenon, he said at a live briefing on Thursday evening.

The only public services that will remain operational on Friday are those required fo the management of the weather phenomenon, including at local authorities, added the minister.

Stylianides also announced an overnight road traffic ban (01:00 am to 08:00 am) on Thursday at Athens’ Poseidonos coastal avenue and also at the area of Kifissos, where flooding occured earlier in the day.

Torrential rain on Thursday disrupted traffic and the Athens metro as it also led to congested traffic, the extension of school shutdowns to Friday, calls for flooded basements to the Fire Brigade and damage to the Parliament building.

Line 1 of the Athens metro (ISAP) is now running normally, its management STASY said on Thursday afternoon. Service was interrupted earlier on the line linking Kifissia and Piraeus due to heavy rain.

A section of Kifissias Avenue, at Faros Psychikou and in the direction toward Athens, was shut down because of flooding after torrential rain on Thursday. Traffic police is diverting vehicles to a side road.

The flow of traffic on Pireos Street was also restored on Thursday afternoon, the traffic police reported, after it was temporarily interrupted at two points due to flooding at the junctions with Petrou Ralli and Hamosternas road.

School in Nea Philedalfeia.

A bus was trapped by the waters in the old Poseidonos, at the height of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

The torrential rain that has been falling in Attica since Thursday morning has caused minor damage to the Greek Parliament building, with small quantities of water leaked into the inner colonnade (peristyle) that houses the exhibition for the bicentennial of the 1821 Greek Revolution. In addition, a piece of marble has fallen on the exterior of the building, next to the entrance on Amalias Avenue.

Meanwhile, the Fire Brigade said it had received more than 260 calls for help: 251 calls to pump water from flooded basements, 8 to cut down trees posing a hazard and 9 to rescue people trapped in their cars by floodwater.

The calls for help came from the districts of Glyfada, Nea Smyrni, Moschato, Nea Philadelphia and Nea Halkidona.

In addition, primary and secondary schools that were shut down in Attica Region in the middle of the day will be out on Friday as well, due to continuing bad weather.

The newly-formed climate Crisis and Civil Protection Ministry on Thursday began to roll out a plan for the evacuation of residents in fire-stricken areas at a high risk for flooding, after the arrival of the low-pressure front “Ballos” brought torrential rain to the greater part of Greek territory.

Working with regional and municipal authorities, the ministry is taking the measure for the first time as part of a policy focused on prevention and the protection of human life as a top priority.

As ministry sources explained to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA), at the orders of Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides, a process of recording and evacuating residents of houses that are located in gullies and ravines or other locations in northern Evia where there is a serious risk of flooding.

Local authorities are also on standby in Attica, especially in Alepochori and areas in the rest of western Attica that were affected by fires in the summer.

Roads toward the burnt areas have been closed due to the risk of landslides and floods where people may become trapped.

The evacuations will be selective and mainly of people that are either elderly or have other problems that hamper their mobility in the case of flooding. They will be put up in hotels, community centres for the elderly and other spaces provided by local authorities for one or two days, until the weather front has passed.

The plan was decided on during a meeting at the civil protection headquarters on Wednesday.

“The idea is to pre-empt the unpleasant consequences from the severe phenomena,” a source told ANA-MPA, adding that the government expects severe storms in many areas from Thursday afternoon.

He explained that the areas considered at a high risk for flooding were those that have flooded in the past, which were well known to the local authorities that have undertaken the operational part of this process, while the plan calls for the Hellenic Police and the fire brigade rescue EMAK units to be on high alert in these areas.

Postponed actions

Athens tram drivers will suspend a scheduled work stoppage on Friday, their union said on Thursday, because of the adverse weather conditions expected to continue Friday.

Also postponed on Thursday afternoon are protests by the youth (KNE) of the Communist Party at the US Embassy in Athens and the Consulate in Thessaloniki. The organization is protesting the signing of the updated Greece-US Mutual Defense and Cooperation Agreement, they said, to “disengage Greece’s involvement from NATO’s and the EU’s dangerous imperialist plans.”