March 25th, 2019

Heavy rains

State services battled throughout the entire day yesterday as more heavy rains fell across the island, flooding dozens of dwellings and causing traffic havoc.

No injuries were reported, although a few people trapped in their homes and vehicles came close to drowning.

The hardest hit areas were the villages of Avgorou and Frenaros, in the Famagusta district, and the suburbs and city of Limassol.In the Avgorou area, the Fire Department responded to more than 25 distress calls from people whose homes and basements were flooded.

In the Nicosia district, specifically the suburbs of Dali and Yeri, around 30 calls were made to the Fire Department to pump out rainwater from flooded houses and garages. The department dispatched seven crews and by 6pm the situation was largely under control. They were assisted by crews from Civil Defence and district administration authorities which deployed diggers to clear debris.

Heavy rains caused traffic mayhem on Spyros Kyprianou Avenue at Kato Polemidia, Limassol. Traffic lights malfunctioned, and at one point the water level on the street was reported to be half a meter deep. At least eight cars were immobilized.

Reports from the site said one man, trapped inside his car with his child, began shouting for help, and was eventually towed out by another vehicle.

By late afternoon, the traffic lights were back in operation and the rains subsided, but nightfall hampered the efforts of rescue teams.

Not too far away, a woman was rescued by her husband after water from a nearby river gushed into their home, flooding it. Eyewitnesses saw the man carrying his wife on his shoulders as he waded in waist-deep water and struggled to get out of the house.

Similar flooding occurred in Ayia Fyla and the area near the Tsirio football stadium.

Police urged the public to remain indoors and not move around in their vehicles unless absolutely necessary.

All off-duty firemen have been ordered on standby.

A crisis management centre has been set up at police headquarters in Nicosia, as more rains are forecast for the weekend.

Yesterday's rains came on top of Tuesday's deluge in the Larnaca district, which forced some 40 families to abandon their flooded homes. Most of the people are now living with relatives, while some are staying in hotels.

Nicosia District Officer Argyris Papanastasiou said priority would be given to repair works so that people could return to a normal way of life as soon as possible.

He was speaking after a meeting yesterday between government agencies and the community leaders of the five affected communities: Pera Khorio, Nisou, Dali, Alambra and Ayia Varvara.

Papanastasiou said five crews comprising civil engineers and technicians would be dispatched to each of the five affected villages. Damage assessment would begin today, he added.

The crews' task will be to start clearing up debris from flooded wells and gullies, and repair damaged roads and bridges.

The consensus seems to be that the flooding was caused, or worsened, by gullies that over time became jammed with debris and garbage tossed in by the locals. Authorities are already considering stricter penalties for this type of pollution.

However the mukhtar of Alambra disagreed, blaming the floods on faulty workmanship on the Nicosia-Limassol highway that, as he said, has caused a shift in the normal flow of rainwater.

Meanwhile the Met is predicting more heavy showers for today. Met officer Kleanthis Nicolaides said the severe weather phenomena would subside in the morning, but that heavy rains, strong winds and hail should be expected in the afternoon.

Some 250,000 cubic meters of rainwater have flowed into the dams over the past three days. The dams now hold around 73 million cubic meters, or 25.4 per cent of capacity, compared to 4.7 per cent on the same day last year.

Nevertheless, Fedros Roussis of the Water Development Department said the water inflow of the last few days would not impact the water shortage problems in any significant way.

Most of the rainwater would go toward boosting aquifers, he added. It was the rainfall in coming months that would make a real difference.
Source:  Cyprus-Mail