SESKLO, Greece – The fires came first. Then the floods.
In the small village of Sesklo in central Greece, 46-year-old Vasilis Tsiamitas felt the extremes of both strange weather phenomena this summer that have made Greece a climate change hotspot.
Storm Elias flooded his house, damaged his beach bar and destroyed his car in September, wiping out what had been left weeks earlier by Storm Daniel, the most intense ever recorded in Greece, and a forest fire in July that burned the almond grove. from your family.
“Only God knows how I will get through this,” Tsiamitas said, standing outside his family’s two-story home. The front door is off its hinges, propped against a wall alongside flood-soaked wooden boards.
“What else could hit me? It can’t get any worse,” he told Reuters.
Violent storms and floods have become more frequent in recent years, while rising temperatures make summers hotter and drier, creating conditions ripe for wildfires.
Muddy roads and household furniture piled outside to dry in villages in the mainland’s central Thessaly region are a constant reminder of the measures Greece needs to take as it adapts to climate change to mitigate the impact of such events. strange weather.
Sesklo, a village of around 800 people near the port city of Volos and home to one of Europe’s oldest prehistoric settlements, has survived natural disasters over the centuries.
But its older residents, Tsiamitas says, have never experienced anything like this year’s devastation.
“This is the first time that our village has been so tested,” said Tsiamitas, who is also the local community leader. “We have elderly people sitting in the village square who are 95, 90 years old, they have never experienced anything like this before.”
Start from scratch
The forest fire that broke out in July burned uncontrollably for at least two days.
Sesklo residents were evacuated in time, but the flames, fueled by strong winds, burned farmland and woodland, destroying approximately 70% of the village’s almond and olive oil production, Tsiamitas said.
“The weather conditions were very bad, the wind, there was no humidity that day, the fire was advancing quickly. There wasn’t enough time to do anything,” he said.
In early September, Storm Daniel hit Thessaly following Greece’s longest heatwave in more than 30 years. It killed 16 people and turned the area into an inland sea, destroying homes, farms and destroying crop areas.
Tsiamitas, whose beach bar was flooded, said most Sesklo residents were not as affected as others in the region. But the feeling of relief was short-lived.
Weeks later, Elias, a less intense but unexpected storm, was the last straw.
Tsiamitas says he was holding his youngest son in his arms when a violent torrent ripped through the front door, forcing him to run upstairs to where his in-laws live.
The water has since receded, revealing the devastation suffered by villages like Sesklo.
“We should learn our lesson,” said Tsiamitas, looking at the stumps of burned almond trees. “We need to pull them out… we need to plant them again. Again and again, we have to start everything from scratch.”