September 27, 2018 / 3:18 PM / 20 days ago

Greece swept by gales, braces for autumn cyclone

ATHENS (Reuters) - Ships were held in dock at ports across Greece on Thursday and schools were ordered to shut down in the Attica region around Athens on Friday as the country braced for a Mediterranean autumn cyclone.

A small shrine is seen on a hill as waves caused by strong winds hit the cliffs of the port town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Temperatures plunged unexpectedly by up to 10 degrees Celsius and gusting winds blew garbage containers off the streets of Athens and led to power cuts and tree falls in several areas of Greece.

Dimitris Papadomilonakis holds a hose as firefighters try to pump water from his sailing boat at the port of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, September 27, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Firefighters received hundreds of calls for assistance to remove downed trees and other objects on Thursday.

The civil protection service urged municipalities and citizens to be on the alert for a storm dubbed “Xenophon”.

Winds were forecast to intensify and rain set to pound parts of the country later on Thursday and Friday, Greece’s National Weather Service said.

Slideshow (9 Images)

Michalis Petrakis, a former head of the National Observatory of Athens, said wind speeds could reach 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour, though he did not anticipate a disaster.

“There is no reason to panic,” he told state television.

The storm was already affecting some Greek islands - Kythera was struggling with severe power cuts while firefighters were trying to douse flames fanned by strong winds on Kefalonia.

The Athens area has recently been hit by deadly fires and flash floods. In 2017, 24 people were killed and left scores homeless after a rain-swollen torrent inundated two coastal towns west of the capital.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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