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Greek Agriculture Devastated: Flash Floods Cause Billions in Losses


Greece's serene landscape, known for its idyllic farming plains, recently faced a catastrophic blow. Storm Daniel, an unrelenting force of nature, triggered flash floods in the central Thessaly region. These torrential floods claimed the lives of 15 people, displaced thousands from their homes, and isolated 30 villages due to the looming threat of waterborne diseases. As Greece grapples with the aftermath of this natural disaster, experts reveal the grim reality: a quarter of the nation's annual agricultural production has been decimated.

The Devastation's Overwhelming Impact

While officials are still attempting to gauge the extent of the damage inflicted on the agricultural heartland of Greece, one immediate concern is the disposal of tens of thousands of decaying farm animals. Distressingly, out of the reported 110,000 livestock casualties, fewer than half have been properly laid to rest through burial or incineration.

Inspection teams continue to face hurdles in accessing affected areas with deceased livestock, further complicating this distressing situation. The environmental implications are immense, as the floodwaters not only disrupted the power supply and inundated roads and infrastructure but also carried a harmful cocktail of pesticides and waste from both agricultural and urban areas.

Some Greek regions have received more rain than they do normally in a year
Photo by REUTERS: Some Greek regions have received more rain than they do normally in a year

Greek Agricultural Catastrophe Unfolds

Farmers and livestock breeders, the backbone of Greece's agricultural sector, are now grappling with profound uncertainty and distress. The damage is far-reaching, affecting various crops and produce. The cotton crop, a staple in Thessaly, has suffered an estimated 70 percent loss, along with nearly the entire clover harvest.

The region's apple and kiwi production have also taken substantial hits, while vital wheat stockpiles languished underwater in flooded warehouses. Katerina Kasimati, an agriculture engineer at the Agricultural University of Athens, explained that some parts of Thessaly received an astonishing 910 millimeters of rain – more than three feet – exceeding a year's worth of rainfall in normal conditions.

Kasimati elaborated, "These floods caused nearly 25 percent of the year's crop production to be lost, amounting to losses in the hundreds of millions of euros." This shocking revelation paints a grim economic outlook for Greece's already beleaguered agricultural sector.

The Human Toll and Health Hazards

Aside from the economic ramifications, the floods have taken a severe toll on human lives and well-being. The floods have led to dozens of cases of gastroenteritis, prompting health authorities to issue warnings about the safety of tap water for drinking and showering in several areas. Over 4,500 people had to be rescued from flooded regions by the fire department, with seven villages still cut off from assistance as of the latest government update.

Transportation infrastructure, already strained, faced another severe blow with the flooding. Greece had just recently been grappling with devastating forest fires that claimed the lives of 26 people earlier in the summer. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis characterized the situation as a "catastrophe of immense proportions" during his meeting with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen in Strasbourg.

Mitsotakis acknowledged that the scale of the catastrophe exceeded the government's predictions and comprehension. The EU has pledged support, offering Greece access to 2.25 billion euros in pending and additional funds for reconstruction.

The Long Road to Recovery

The road to recovery is a daunting one for Greece. Critical rail networks will require months of repair work, and rail services between Athens and Thessaloniki in the north will likely not be fully restored for at least a month. The national highway, a vital artery of transportation, remains submerged, and there's no quick fix in sight.

Mitsotakis' government, despite a comfortable re-election in June, faces mounting criticism for inadequately preparing for such disasters following major flooding caused by the 2020 storm, Ianos. The opposition Syriza party points out that millions of euros were spent on flood prevention, yet Thessaly once again finds itself inundated.

The Greek newspaper, Kathimerini, has been equally vocal, urging Mitsotakis to appoint more capable individuals to key cabinet positions and take the situation seriously. In response, rumors circulate of a cabinet reshuffle, following the replacement of two ministers post-re-election. Additionally, a judicial investigation is underway to assess possible failings by public officials in responding to this calamitous storm.

As Greece grapples with the repercussions of Storm Daniel, it's clear that the road to recovery will be long and arduous, with agriculture and transportation sectors among the hardest-hit. The nation must rebuild and reassess its preparedness for such extreme weather events as it faces the daunting task of rebuilding and restoring a sense of normalcy in the wake of this disaster.


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