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Deadly storm sweeps across Greece, PM postpones keynote speech

By Angeliki Koutantou and Louisa Gouliamaki

ATHENS (Reuters) -At least six people have died and more than six were still missing on Thursday after storm Daniel swept across central Greece, triggering landslides, destroying roads and bridges and carrying away dozens of cars.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis postponed an annual economic speech scheduled for this weekend and will instead visit areas hit since Monday by torrential rain that has flooded homes and destroyed key infrastructure, including power poles.

"The state mechanism's absolute priority right now is the rescue and evacuation of people from the areas affected," government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis told a press briefing.

"Our country is facing for the third day a phenomenon unlike any other we have seen in the past," Marinakis said, before announcing that the recently re-elected leader's main economic policy speech would be held in the middle of next week instead of Saturday.

The mainland port city of Volos, the surrounding mountainous Pelion area and the cities of Karditsa and Trikala were among the worst-hit areas.

Heavy rainfall, which came days after a two-week deadly wildfire died out in the north and authorities said was the most extreme on record, has turned many villages in the low-lying area of Karditsa, in the mainland Thessaly plain, into a lake.

Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said during a press briefing on Thursday that six people had been reported missing in the area of Karditsa.

The fire brigade said the bodies of two elderly women were recovered from a house at the community of Astritsa near Karditsa on Thursday. The body of a man had been found in the town of Domokos earlier in the day.

HOUSES SUBMERGED

Reuters footage showed houses submerged in flood water in the Trikala region.

In the town of Palamas, near Karditsa, dozens of people were trapped inside their flooded residences, Mayor Giorgos Sakellariou, told Open television. Residents speaking to local media called for help and for food supplies.

A fire brigade helicopter airlifted people from the village of Agia Triada, where at least 20 people had been trapped, the government said.

Since Tuesday, 820 people have been evacuated across the country, 750 of them in the Thessaly region.

A fire brigade official said that emergency crews assisted by the army and coastguard used lifeboats in an effort to reach the storm-hit villages in Karditsa, where water was 2 metres (6.5 feet) deep.

"Operations are been carried out very carefully as flood debris obstructed the boats, while, in other cases, the power of the water does not allow us to approach," fire brigade spokesperson Vasilios Vathrakogiannis told a briefing.

Crews will continue going from door to foor to rescue people throughout the night, while 3,000 food portions and water will be handed out across Karditsa and Trikala, Kikilias said in a statement late on Thursday.

The European Union has been in contact with Greece to mobilise support, EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen said on platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

British travel company Jet2 said on Wednesday it was cancelling all flights and holidays to the Aegean island of Skiathos, the closest to Volos, up to Sept. 12 due to the weather.

Flash floods in Greece in 2017 killed 25 people and left hundreds homeless.

(Additional reporting by Lefteris Papadimas; Writing by Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alex Richardson and Aurora Ellis)