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New storms batter central Greece as government prioritizes adapting to effects of climate change

ATHENS, Greece -

New floods following torrential rain swept Wednesday across swathes of central Greece already battered by deadly storms weeks earlier, once again damaging roads, flooding homes and causing power outages in the city of Volos and the island of Evia.

At least eight villages were ordered evacuated late Wednesday as floodwaters rose, and road traffic was banned in Volos -- a coastal city of about 140,000 -- with residents urged to stay indoors.

The fire service received hundreds of calls for assistance in Volos and dozens of people were evacuated from flooded homes, but there were no reports of deaths or people missing. State-run ERT television said the basement of the Volos hospital was inundated, although services were not affected.

The new heavy storms follow deadly wildfires that caused record destruction in the summer, and earlier Wednesday the government declared that adapting to climate change has become a national priority.

Volos, the nearby Mount Pilion area and other parts of central Greece are still recovering from the floods earlier this month that caused 16 deaths, destroyed homes and infrastructure, wrecked crops and drowned tens of thousands of livestock in the key farming area of Thessaly. Some of these areas still lack drinking water as a result of the previous storms.

In the northern part of Evia island, army and municipal crews cleared debris from the roads near the flood-hit towns of Limni and Mantoudi, where the Fire Service reported receiving dozens of calls Wednesday from flooded households for assistance.

Authorities had been placed on alert in central Greece and nearby islands following the storm forecast.

The government said the initial estimate of the damage from the storm earlier this month exceeded 2 billion euros (US$2.1 billion), with infrastructure repair alone expected to cost nearly 700 million euros (US$735 million).

Greece has been promised emergency funding from the European Union and is renegotiating details of existing aid packages to target more funds to cope with the damage caused by wildfires and floods.

"I will restate the obvious: The frequency of (weather) assaults due to the climate crisis is something that requires us to integrate civil protection (in our response)," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told a Cabinet meeting Wednesday. "Adaptation to the climate crisis is a fundamental priority in all our policies."

The weather is expected to improve Friday.

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