Kathleen ElliottComment

Greece floods: ‘the water took everything’

Kathleen ElliottComment
Greece floods: ‘the water took everything’

Greek taxi driver Costas Maroulis was at home when deadly floods struck his town, leaving him no chance of escape.

“The water came down in two directions and the intersection was at my house,” the 62-year-old said, describing his ordeal a week after the disaster. “The water took everything.”

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo a barefoot Costas Maroulis 62 stands in front of piled up vehicles in the town of Mandra western Athens, following deadly flash floods that hit the area hours before. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The torrent of water and mud stripped the surface off roads, swept cars into building-high piles of scrap, and left at least 21 people dead in the hillside town of Mandra and nearby areas in an industrial belt west of Athens.

A week later, crews clearing away debris have still not recovered all the bodies of those missing, as residents struggle to deal with aftermath of the disaster.

Maroulis recalled how a shoulder-high wall of floodwater smashed into his home. He fought to save his elderly mother-in-law, keeping her head above his own until the flooding finally subsided.

“I tried to use our fridge as a barrier, but the water was too fast. I turned away for a moment and it was gone,” he said.

Eventually he staggered outside, naked from the waist down to borrow clothes from neighbors. He was photographed barefoot, hands in the pockets of borrowed shorts, and with a light blue sweatshirt over his head after reaching the town square. A small mountain of cars and household debris formed a catastrophic backdrop.

In this Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 photo, workers try to remove a vehicle wedged into the entrance of a home in the town of Mandra western Athens. A major flash flooding on Wednesday that left at least 21 people dead, turned streets into torrents of mud and debris that swept away cars, collapsed walls and submerged parts of a major highway. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

The government declared a national day of mourning after last week’s floods, with flags flying at half-staff at the ancient Acropolis and at government buildings.

The army joined the effort this week to clear mud from the streets and homes of Mandra, as rescuers continued to pull bodies from the debris, the latest found Tuesday and believed to be that of a missing truck driver.

Using satellite imagery, European Union rescue services estimated that nearly 7,000 people had been directly affected in an area of about 300 hectares (740 acres).

Government crews said about 70 percent of the homes they had inspected in Mandra were seriously damaged or destroyed, leaving a lasting scar in the blue-collar town of 12,000 people.

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo a man walks on a flooded street in the town of Mandra western Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

Despite the scale of the damage, no one was reported homeless, survivors finding shelter with family and friends.

Maroulis went to stay with his daughter, but he fears recovery checks promised by the government won’t come close to the amount he would need to rebuild his life.

“I had filed for my pension and was looking forward to my retirement. Now everything has changed,” he said.

“I wasn’t afraid when the flood came because we were fighting to survive. But now, yes, I am afraid for the future.”

In this Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 photo, an elderly woman walks in front of a flood-damaged house in the town of Mandra western Athens, on Friday , Nov. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo, painting on the wall is half covered with mud in a flooded house at the town of Mandra western Athens. Flash floods in the Greek capital's western outskirts Wednesday turned roads into raging torrents of mud and debris, killing at least 21 people.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 photo, family pictures are covered with mud outside a house in the town of Mandra western Athens, on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, following major flash flooding that left at least 21 people dead.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo, Red Cross personnel and firefighters carry an elderly man to an ambulance in town of Mandra western Athens, following deadly flash floods that hit the area. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo, a man clears mad from his home in front of flipped over cars in the town of Mandra western Athens, following deadly flash floods that hit the area. Nearly 1,000 buildings were damaged, most of them private houses, as well as businesses, storage areas and public buildings.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 photo people are reflected on the front window of a flooded bus as water covers an interchange of a highway in Elefsina, west of Athens. Flash floods in the Greek capital's western outskirts Wednesday turned roads into raging torrents of mud and debris, killing at least twenty people, inundating homes and businesses and knocking out a section of a highway. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 photo, Kiriaki Ksanthou cleans mud next to the tombs of her husband and her son in the flood-damaged cemetery of the town of Mandra western Athens, following deadly flash floods that hit the area.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017 photo worker uses a hose to suck up water from a damaged yard of a house in the town of Mandra western Athens following major flash flooding on Wednesday that left at least 21 people dead.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017 photo clothes covered with mud are hunged in a closet into a flood-damaged home in the town of Mandra , west of Athens.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Friday , Nov. 17, 2017 photo, a man drops buckets with mud outside his home in the town of Mandra western Athens, on Friday , Nov. 17, 2017 following deadly flash floods that struck near Athens, killing at least 21 people.(AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Tuesday , Nov. 21, 2017 photo a sink and a bathtub is covered with mud into a flood-damaged home in the town of Mandra , west of Athens. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

In this Friday , Nov. 17, 2017 photo, a man walks past a tomb covered with mud as he is searching the tomb of his grandmother in the flood-damaged cemetery of the town of Mandra western Athens, on Friday , Nov. 17, 2017, following deadly flash floods that struck near Athens, killing 21. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)


Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Greece floods: ‘the water took everything’, by Petros Giannakouris.

Photos by Petros Giannakouris

Petros on Instagram

Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.