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article imageGreece in mourning, several still missing in deadly flood

By AFP     Nov 16, 2017 in World

Greece was in mourning Thursday as rescue crews tried to locate several people missing in a flood that killed 15 people near the capital, as rain continued to fall.

Authorities said at least five people were still missing in Mandra, one of three towns some 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Athens hit by a freak flood early on Wednesday.

"It was like a tsunami," Evangelos Kolovetzos, a local shopowner, told AFP.

Greece's civil protection authority said heavy rainfall was complicating search and rescue efforts in Mandra, Nea Peramos and Megara, the semi-rural areas west of Athens submerged for a second day in reddish torrents.

"We are trying to deal with two torrents, one of which is still flowing through the centre of Mandra," a civil protection agency source said.

"A storm is underway and the operation is very difficult," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Twelve people are hospitalised, one in serious condition.

The poor weather is set to continue until the weekend, raising concerns for hundreds of people with flooded homes.

Flags at state buildings around the country were at half mast after Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a state of national mourning.

- 'Great tragedy' -

"At this time, declaring a state of national mourning over this great tragedy is the least we can do," Tsipras said in a televised address on Wednesday.

"I pledge that we will stand next to the families of the victims with all the means at our disposal," he added.

Food, water and blankets have been rushed to the area, hit by what locals have described as the worst flooding in 20 years.

"The situation is unprecedented," said Constantinos Palaioroutis, director of the hospital nearest to the area.

"We have never dealt with such a situation, so many victims in such a short space of time," he said.

Some elderly people died inside their homes while others were trapped in their cars as they drove to work.

Parts of the area are without water and electricity for a second day, and the damage will take days to repair. A 364-cabin cruise ship has been commissioned to shelter some of the homeless.

Experts have said ill-conceived construction in the area meant this was a disaster waiting to happen as a prosecutor ordered an investigation into building violations in the area.

Greece's leading union GSEE described as "inconceivable" losing people to chaotic urban planning and building violations.

"There is a bad precedent with public works in this country," Interior Minister Panos Skourletis told Antenna TV.

"Illegal building was a response to huge social and economic inequality," said government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

"These were poor people, for years the state allowed them to operate in a specific way,"

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