At least three people were killed and hundreds have been rescued in Greece after a rare storm system known as a “medicane” spawned severe flooding after making landfall on Friday, according to officials.
The storm, named Ianos, hit the Ionian islands and western Peloponnese on Friday before lashing the rest of the country on Saturday.
“We’re dealing with a total catastrophe,” one resident in Farsala told state television.
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Authorities said Saturday they identified two people killed in floodwaters as an elderly woman was found dead in her flooded home in the region of Thessaly and a 63-year-old shepherd was swept away by rising floodwaters.
They also said a woman who is missing ignored instructions by firefighters and police not to drive into an area where a bridge spans a river.
On Sunday, the Athens News Agency reported that a man’s body was found under a collapsed roof near Karditsa.
Some 5,000 homes have been flooded in Karditsa from the storm’s heavy rains, where Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is expected to visit in the coming days, Sky News reported.
As of Saturday, the country’s firefighting service said it received some 2,500 calls from trapped residents in central and western Greece about removing fallen trees that were blocking roads. Emergency officials have rescued more than 600 people since the storm made landfall.
Greece’s train operator, TrainOSE, said service linking southern and northern Greece was suspended due to the storm’s impacts.
Water from a river that burst its banks damaged at least two bridges and several buildings, including the local health center in the Thessaly town of Mouzaki, which collapsed.
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Parts of the stricken area were also without electricity.
The storm’s landfall on Friday featured lots of strong winds and sea foam.
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said the storm system was a hybrid between a tropical cyclone and a mid-latitude storm.
“It is a MEDIterranean hurriCANE which brings high winds and waves and torrential rain and flooding,” the WMO tweeted.
According to the agency, these hybrid storms have strong winds spinning around a core with torrential rainfall and also feature an eye that makes them similar to hurricanes.
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But there are differences, including medicanes typically being smaller than hurricanes and may only exist for 24 to 48 hours. These storms are also less intense, with the most severe medicanes only reaching the strength of a Category 1 hurricane.
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“Activity historically peaks between September and January,” the WMO said Friday. “Greece was last hit by a strong medicane in 2018.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.