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Greece: Missing man's body found after deadly storm; 8 dead

BOURTZI, Greece (AP) — The body of a man missing after a storm sparked flash floods on the Greek island of Evia over the weekend was recovered Monday near the Greek mainland, Greece's coast guard said, bringing the death toll from the storm to eight.

Rescue crews had been searching for the 72-year-old since Sunday, after he was reported missing following flooding that swept away cars and sent residents of some villages scrambling to their roofs to await rescue.

The coast guard said the man's body was recovered from the sea off the coast of mainland Greece opposite Evia just after midday Monday. The dead from the storm and flash floods include an elderly couple found in their flooded home Sunday morning, and an 8-month-old baby found in a flooded ground-floor apartment.

Parts of Evia saw rainfall that reached 80% of the annual rainfall for the area in the space of a few hours overnight Saturday to Sunday, Greece’s meteorological service has said. A river burst through its banks and flooded part of the village of Politika, forcing many residents to climb to the rooftops of their homes. Another river in the village of Bourtzi also burst its banks. Authorities estimated that 3,000 residences had been partially or totally damaged by floodwaters and police said many local roads were made impassable. Power and water were also knocked out in some areas.

The flood swept away cars and storage containers, tossing them into streets and against the walls of buildings. On Monday local authorities, emergency crews and residents cleared debris and piles of mud from streets, homes and stores.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis surveyed the affected region by helicopter Monday afternoon, met with local residents and pledged speedy assistance for households and businesses. Bourtzi resident Olga Sismanoglou said the rain began at around 11 p.m. on Saturday night, but initially didn’t appear very severe.

“Afterwards it just swept everything away,” she said as she used a bucket to bail out water and mud from a ground-floor apartment. She said her broader family had lost five cars and two motorbikes that were carried away by the floodwaters.

The region had suffered flooding before, in 2009, local residents said, but said no flood prevention measures had been taken in the area since then. Resident Vassilis Pavlou said he heard a rumbling at around dawn, similar to what he had heard in 2009.

“I get up and look outside, and what do I see? The water was two meters (six feet) high, the water was coming down like a tsunami,” he said. “It had taken cars, it had taken everything. I woke the children up, the water had come up to the balcony, and we went up to the roof.” There, they waited until the floodwaters subsided.

Heavy rain started falling at about midnight Saturday and firefighters responded to over 50 fires caused by lightning. By late afternoon Sunday, 97 people had been safely evacuated from their homes and cars, 30 of them by helicopter, and over 600 homes had been drained of floodwaters, the fire service said.

Becatoros contributed from Athens, Greece.

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