Greek prosecutor orders investigation into deadly floods

Impact of storm Daniel, in central Greece

ATHENS (Reuters) -A prosecutor for Greece's top criminal court has ordered a probe into the causes and handling of floods triggered by a storm that killed at least 15 people, swamped houses and destroyed infrastructure in Greece last week, semi-state Athens News Agency said on Wednesday.

Storm Daniel, Greece's most intense since records began in 1930, swept through Thessaly in central Greece for three days at the end of the hottest summer ever recorded in the country.

Torrents of water turned the fertile Thessaly plain into an inland sea, with hundreds of residents airlifted or pulled out of flooded homes in lifeboats, crops washed away and tens of thousands of animals drowned.

A top prosecutor has ordered authorities in the areas of Volos, Karditsa, Larissa and Trikala, the worst-hit regions, to determine whether any crimes were committed, including flooding by intention or negligence, the Athens News Agency said.

The investigation will also look into whether flood prevention measures taken by local authorities were adequate in the light of clear advance warnings by Greece's national meteorological service.

A destructive storm had hit the same region in 2020.

Nearly a week after Daniel, many villages across some 72,000 hectares were still swamped with muddy water in the Thessaly plain.

The EU Commission said on Tuesday that Greece could tap up to 2.25 billion euros in European funds to tackle the impact of the storm.

Greece will also look to secure 500-600 million euros ($1.18 billion) from the EU's Recovery and Resilience Fund to immediately fix damaged roads, railway and bridges, Infrastructure Minister Christos Staikouras said.

"We need to act quickly, with planning for safety," he told an Economist event in Thessaloniki.

Greek lawmakers were due to vote on Wednesday on draft legislation allowing the infrastructure ministry to take over planning, contracting and implementing emergency reconstruction works in the areas hit by the disaster, Staikouras said.

Athens has announced immediate relief measures for those areas. Greece's largest lenders would also freeze loan repayments for businesses and households hit by the rainstorm until the end of the year, their association said in a statement later on Wednesday.

($1 = 0.9316 euros)

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; Editing by Alex Richardson, Elaine Hardcastle)