February 26, 2019 / 11:07 AM / 7 months ago

Rains, gales pound Greek island of Crete, one man dead

A car evades rocks blocking a road during a heavy storm near the village of Sisses on the island of Crete, Greece February 25, 2019. REUTERS/Stefanos Rapanis

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek authorities on Tuesday found the body of a 61-year-old farmer missing on the Aegean island of Crete after days of cold, torrential rain and gales, state television said.

Crete, Greece’s southernmost island and one of its top tourism destinations, has been hit hardest by storms battering the country over the past few days, with roads, buildings and infrastructure damaged across the island and rivers flooding.

Television images showed a century-old bridge collapsing due to rising water levels. Some homes were protectively evacuated.

More than 30 firemen assisted by volunteers and divers had been combing a flood-swollen stream for a farmer, a father of five, whose car was swept away on Monday. Rescue teams recovered his body on Tuesday, state TV ERT said.

“A dead person was found on the banks of a river,” a fire brigade statement said.

Infrastructure ministry officials and experts traveled with a helicopter to Crete on Monday to assess the extent of the damage. Regional governor Stavros Arnaoutakis said damage could reach dozens of millions of euros.

“It’s been raining for six days non-stop, I mean (a) storm, not just rain, an incredible amount of water,” said Nikos Lagoudakis, a senior fire brigade official.

In 2017, devastating flash floods following torrential rain killed at least 15 people and made scores homeless in towns west of the capital Athens. A wildfire in July that year killed 100 people in the seaside resort of Mati near Athens.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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