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Cyclone Ianos: Three dead as 'medicane' sweeps across Greece

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media captionDrone footage shows the damage caused by Cyclone Ianos

Three people have died and two remain missing after a rare hurricane-like storm swept across Greece, flooding streets and homes and cutting power.

Hundreds of people became trapped as Cyclone Ianos, known as a "medicane" (Mediterranean hurricane), hit areas north of Athens before heading south.

Train services linking the north and south of the country were cut off.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has pledged that "all the affected areas will have immediate support".

Mr Mitsotakis has sent three senior officials to the worst-hit central region.

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On Sunday, the body of a man, a 62-year-old farmer, was found under the collapsed roof of his house in a village near Karditsa, north of Athens, officials said.

image copyrightEPA
image captionStreets were flooded in central Karditsa, one of the worst-affected areas

Another man was found dead on his farm in the same region on Saturday, while the body of a woman was recovered from her flooded home in a nearby town, local media reported.

Two other people are still missing - one of them is a woman was swept away in her car, which has since been found empty, firefighters said.

image copyrightEPA
image captionLarge parts of Karditsa were under water. Emergency services said they received more than 2,000 calls for help

How powerful was the storm?

As Ianos churned eastwards overnight Friday and into Saturday, the city of Karditsa was lashed by winds of up to 120km/h (75mph) that brought down power lines and triggered landslides.

About 5,000 homes in the city were reportedly affected by flooding, while roads were also damaged.

image copyrightEPA
image captionCorinth, in the Peloponnese, was also flooded
image copyrightReuters
image captionRoads across central Greece were flooded

TV images showed Karditsa badly flooded, with a bridge collapsed.

"We're dealing with a total catastrophe," said Nikolaos Gousios, a resident of nearby Farsala village.

image copyrightReuters
image captionBoats moored in Kefalonia took a battering

By Saturday evening, the storm had reached the island of Crete, bringing heavy rainfall that flooded streets and properties.

Footage on social media earlier showed huge waves lashing the beaches on the Ionian islands of Kefalonia and Zakynthos as the storm headed in. Flights and ferry services were cancelled and tourists were advised to stay indoors.

"I call on citizens to remain vigilant for as long as this phenomenon lasts," Mr Mitsotakis warned those in its path, adding: "What takes precedence now is protection of life."

A boat believed to be carrying 55 migrants off the western Peloponnese was also reported to be in distress on Friday. However, the Greek coast guard told AFP news agency that the boat may have changed course after receiving no help.

Medicanes - tropical-like cyclones - have only been categorised by meteorologists in the past 40 years, according to Kostas Lagouvardos, an expert at the Athens Observatory.

"Mediterranean cyclones or hurricanes have tropical characteristics like those in the Atlantic, but they often have a smaller volume and are less intense," he told AFP news agency.

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