Greece: Fierce storm causes blackouts, road havoc

February 22, 2013 - 3:30 PM
APTOPIX Greece Flooding

A woman shelters from the rain and the flodding at a bus stop, by standing on a bench, on a flooded highway linking Athens with its port of Piraeus, during a rainstorm on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Hours of heavy rainfall in Athens caused extensive flooding, inundating basements and forcing authorities to close major roads and a central subway station. The Greek fire brigade says it received more than 900 calls to pump out water in the greater Athens region Friday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Torrential rainfall in Greece's capital Friday crippled traffic, inundated basements and streets, and was blamed for the death of woman whose car was trapped in floodwater, authorities said.

The overnight storm swept across greater Athens, flooding hundreds of homes, causing blackouts in parts of the city and forcing authorities to close major roads and a central subway station in Athens.

"We have many, many problems — it's hard to know where to begin describing it," Deputy Fire Chief Vassilis Papageorgiou said.

"We have more than 60 crews working to get people out of stranded vehicles."

Police closed underpasses and highways in low-lying parts of the city after they were submerged, while parked cars were swept away by racing waters.

A 23-year-old woman who had been trapped in her car on a flooded suburban road died shortly after being pulled free by other motorists and taken to a hospital, police said. Doctors said a preliminary examination suggested she had died of heart failure.

The fire department said it received about 1,500 calls to pump out water in greater Athens. During five hours of heavy rainfall, more than 100 millimeters (3.9 inches) fell in some parts of the city — more than the monthly average of 50 millimeters (1.9 inches).

An abandoned house collapsed in the city center, but no injuries were reported, while a factory north of Athens was seriously damaged when floodwater eroded the ground beneath the structure.

The capital's tram system was also shut down for more than an hour, while urban rail schedules were disrupted after a tree fell onto the tracks. The rain also caused power cuts in parts of the city.

In Parliament, a worker clearing water from the roof of the main assembly hall during a session tripped and went through a glass skylight, but was pulled to safety by a policeman.

The accident occurred as Cabinet members were preparing to answer questions.

"The worker could have landed on our heads," Sports Minister Yiannis Ioannidis said.