British tourists on the small Greek island of Skiathos have described being stranded while a severe storm hammers mainland Greece and its islands, causing widespread flooding.
Streets have been turned into raging torrents. Traffic was banned in the central town of Volos, the nearby mountain region of Pilion and on the island of Skiathos, where many British tourists are stuck, until the storm subsides, local police said.
Torrential downpours have turned the streets of Skiathos into raging rivers, while cars and boats were washed away, videos posted to social media site X show.
Thunder and lightening struck the island “constantly for 12 hours”, tourists report, and there are reports of power cuts and hotel rooms flooding.
Many are worried about whether they will be able to return home amid reports of flights being disrupted. Holidaymakers have been urged to stay indoors and not use their cars.
The island’s mayor has put in a request to declare a state of emergency, local media reported.
One stranded tourist wrote on X: “I’m on holiday in Skiathos torrential rain got the last 24 plus hours and heavy flooding, unable to leave the hotel.”
Another wrote: “Never seen a storm like this in my life, 12 hours of constant thunder & lightning!!!”
A third wrote: “Received 4 emergency mobile alerts as authorities prohibit traffic amidst the intense downpour. This rainstorm has lasted nearly 24 hrs with no sign of stopping.”
Jet2 said all its flights due to depart the island on Tuesday and Wednesday - five in total - have been cancelled.
A flight from London Stansted to Skiathos diverted to Thessaloniki on Monday and customers have been put up in a hotel. The flight will return travellers to the UK on Wednesday, the airline said.
Jet2 told the Standard: “We are contacting all affected customers and they will of course receive a full refund.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation on the island and have been in touch with customers in resort by SMS to advise them of the situation, and to ask them to follow the advice of the local authorities as well as their hoteliers.
“We will ensure that we fly all of our customers home once conditions allow.
“We recognise that this is an extremely difficult and unpleasant experience for our customers, and we of course are extremely sorry to hear this.
“Although extraordinary events such as these are completely outside of our control, our absolute focus is on doing everything we can to look after everyone.”
Tui told its passengers that “if any further flights are impacted, customers will be contacted in due course”.
Sobering scenes continue to emerge from Thessaly, Greece as the region is experiencing one of its worst flooding events on record. Continuous heavy rainfall have turned the streets of Skiathos into raging rivers. pic.twitter.com/iHumXamWem
— Nahel Belgherze (@WxNB_) September 5, 2023
I'm on one of those inbound flights. Eurowings. Bumped around for 30 mins holding above #Skiathos and then a turbulent diversion to Athens. Going to try again in 30 mins. 🙈
— Jinny (@Jinny15763496) September 5, 2023
Meanwhile Greece’s fire department said one man was killed in Volos when a wall buckled and fell on him. Five people were reported missing, possibly swept away by floodwater.
Photos of Volos show people attempting to clear debris as cars get stuck in giant sinkholes on the city’s roads.
Greece’s minister for civil protection, Vassilis Kikilias, said the storms were forecast to ease after midday on Wednesday and urged people in afflicted areas to stay indoors.
“According to meteorologists, it’s the most extreme event as far as maximum rainfall in a day is concerned since record-keeping started,” he said.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday: “I am afraid that the careless summers, as we knew them ... will cease to exist and from now on the coming summers are likely to be ever more difficult.”
In one video posted to social media at an unknown coastal town, a car is seen submerged in mud and water on a beach as choppy waves, churned up with silt, crash onto the vehicle.
Flooding had begun to submerge nearby vehicles in a carpark, the footage showed.
Authorities also sent alerts to mobile phones in several other areas of central Greece, the Sporades island chain and the island of Evia, warning people to limit their movements outdoors due to the storm.
Local media reported that torrential rainfall caused streams to break their banks and turned roads into rivers, sweeping cars into the sea in the Pilion area.
Greece’s weather service said the Pilion region was forecast to receive about 650 to 700 millimetres (25.5 to 27.5 inches) of rain over Tuesday and Wednesday, while 550-600 millimetres were forecast for the central town of Karditsa.
The weather service noted that the average annual rainfall in the capital of Athens region is around 400 millimetres.
The storm was forecast to cause heavy rainfall and storms, accompanied by hail, thunder and strong winds in the Aegean.
The extreme weather comes after major wildfires scorched Greece over the past few weeks, with some burning for more than two weeks and destroying forest and farmland. More than 20 people were killed in the fires.