A freak overnight downpour on the outskirts of Athens has caused flash floods, killing at least 15 people. Torrents of mud and debris engulfed streets in what is being described as the worst flooding in 20 years.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a state of mourning on Wednesday after a severe overnight storm caused flash floods that struck the towns of Mandra, Nea Peramos and Megara on the outskirts of Athens.
"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. "I pledge that we will stand next to the families of the victims with all the means at our disposal."
At least 15 people have been reported dead and there were fears the death toll could rise as rescue crews searched for potentially missing people in flooded homes and streets.
"The situation is very difficult, Niagara Falls came down and could not be stopped," deputy regional governor Yiannis Vassileiou told state broadcaster ERT. "A river of debris went through Mandra...This is unprecedented."
Twelve of the people killed were found near Mandra, which was hit the hardest by the flood. The coast guard recovered two other bodies which the flood reportedly swept out to sea.
"Everything is lost, the disaster is biblical," Mandra Mayor Ioanna Kriekouki told the station.
The fire department said it had received more than 600 calls for help pumping water out of buildings. The prime ministers office has said that 87 people have been rescued altogether. All fire services across Athens had been put on alert as more severe weather has been forecasted for Wednesday night.
dv/es (AP, AFP)