By Avra Fiala, IFRC

Thousands of people are beginning the difficult road to recovery in Greece following major floods last week. Torrents of water and mud smashed into towns and villages in the West Attica region early on 15 November.

Water levels swelled to almost two metres, washing away cars and carpeting homes and businesses in thick mud and rubble. Twenty people have been killed and two more are missing. Hellenic Red Cross teams have been helping with search and rescue, pumping out flood water and giving out emergency food, medicine and water donated by local businesses.

Grandmother rescued by teen

“We were sleeping when suddenly we heard a loud noise,” explained 16-year-old Angelos from Mandra, a town of 20,000 that bore the brunt of the floods. “A few minutes later, the door broke down and water started pouring in. I saw the fridge carried away right past me. My grandma was taken by the water while I was pushing my mum up the stairs towards the rooftop. I managed to grab my grandma’s arm and pull her out.” Angelos and his family spent several hours trapped on the roof of their house while neighbours threw dry clothes up for his grandmother.

Recovery underway

Red Cross volunteers have been providing psychological first aid to people who are struggling to come to terms with what happened and helping with the clear up now waters have receded. But the recovery process for flood-hit communities will be tough which is why the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is planning to provide emergency cash grants for 350 families so they can buy what they need most. “People are relying on relatives that lived on the upper floors of houses where the water did not reach,” said Red Cross volunteer Ioannis Valmas. “But the problem is that most of the boilers for heating were in the basements and winter is approaching. The cash support will be crucial for people to start rebuilding.”