Storm Eurydice Hits Symi

It was not just Yialos where cars were washed away.  This was the scene next to the Kantina at Agia Marina cemetery on the second bend in the road up the Vigla, at the top of the Pedi valley.  If you look carefully, there are boulders piled on top of the back of the car!  Amazingly no one was injured.

The Agia Marina water course flowed at such velocity that it washed away everything in its path. This ravine is now 10 metres deep in places.

What is left of the access road to my property and several others after the Agia Marina passed through.  We are still waiting our turn with the bulldozers to rationalise this lot as there are a lot of cars, including ours, stuck on the far side of this gully.

Regular followers of this blog will be familiar with this view.  But wait, something is missing. Where is the second boat on the left?


Another  water course opened up, pouring down the hillside, washing away the road at that point...
... washing the other boat right across the road and over the edge into the terrace below.  

You may also be familiar with this little oak tree in Lieni as I have photographed it, and the ancient wall behind, many times.

The Noddy Train was washed from its usual spot outside Vassilis' Taverna and was dumped in front of the bakery on the other side of the bridge.

This was the town square in Yialo at 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The power was still off, communications were down and the emergency crews from Rhodes had yet to arrive.  Symi's Mayor, Lefteris Papakalodoukas (standing on the bridge on the right with his councillors) declared a state of emergency on the island on Monday night.

Several ravines drain into the back of the harbour and they all came down in torrents, bringing hundreds of tons of boulders off the mountain, as well as fast-flowing sticky mud. That is the OTE (telephone) van on the left.

The remains of the Gefaraki cafe next to Vassilis taverna.  This was one of the many cafes and businesses around the town square and along the water front that was literally swept away in a sea of mud.

Looking across at the bridge area from the Kali Strata side of the harbour early on Tuesday morning.  The famous black car on umbrella stand which has featured in many of the flood photographs doing the rounds on social media is just to the left of the Noddy train.

The view from the top, showing the sea of mud.  The water came up so high that it even covered the raised section of the square, used as a municipal car park and Symi Festival venue.

Friday morning and the water boat is in - for the first time in many months as Rhodes ran dry this year and we have been managing on the desalination plant all summer.  The clean up is using masses of fresh water to wash out shops, businesses and homes and clean anything that is salvageable. 

An optimistic sight outside the Symi flower shop this morning. Fortunately that corner of the harbour sustained very little damage beyond clean rain water incursions.

On Monday 13 November 2017 Storm Eurydice rolled into town.  Bad weather had been forecast for several days but for some reason no severe weather warnings were given and most people on Symi were only expecting the usual level of localised flooding that we experience once every few years after an hour's downpour. This storm, however, was much bigger than any previously experienced and lasted for several hours.  The huge volume of water hitting the top of the top of the island triggered flash floods down every ravine and gully, bringing down rocks, boulders, mud, trees and anything else in its way.  Hail blocked gutters and gale force winds lashed the island.

At the same time, the Blue Star was scheduled to stop at Symi at 5.20 p.m. en route from Rhodes to Tilos, Nissyros and beyond.  This meant that there were more cars in the harbour or heading down to the harbour just as the storm peaked at 5 p.m.  The torrents of water washed away the Noddy train and cars parked in and around the town square.  Some of the cars were swept into the harbour and others jammed up against the arches of the bridge. They were followed by the rolling river of boulders and other debris coming down the mountainside, blocking the bridge completely so the water could not drain away and started to spurt over the bridge.  Effectively the bridge became a blocked drain. The flow parted like lava and then worked its way around both sides of the harbour, washing away everything in its path. At the same time, as the water could no longer find an easy path forwards, the muddy stream started to flow through the back lanes, past the post office and down past Taxas supermarket and the Symi Visitor Accommodation office door.

The Blue Star could not risk trying to dock in the dark in the chaos of lost vehicles and bobbing taverna tables and chairs in Yialos and turned back to return its Symi passengers to Rhodes.

Meanwhile, at the back of the harbour, the rumbling river of stones and boulders continued to roll down the ravines, filling up the area at the very back of the harbour. This filled the grounds and lower floors of the Opera House hotel and many buildings in the area as well as filling the famous (the only!) swimming pool at Iapetos hotel with mud and rubbish.

The power went off when the power station in Pedi was flooded by the muddy deluge that was washing down through the Pedi Valley. The topsoil from my lost terraces is probably somewhere down on the football field.  The water went off too as many of the black plastic pipes that take the water to the properties on the island were washed away or broken by debris.  The cell phone network lasted until the back up batteries on the antennae finally wore out in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

I was trapped in the office overnight and many of you will have seen the photographs that I posted on Facebook.  We had quite a lot of water and mud in the Sunflower Laundry and it has taken several days and a lot of hard work with the help of friends to clean up and get operational again. 

Help reached Symi on Tuesday morning in the form of various emergency services and the army from Rhodes on the Panagia Skiadeni, with heavy machinery and other equipment that the island does not have to clean up a mess of such a magnitude.  Meanwhile everyone has been mucking in - literally - cleaning the mud out of their shops and houses, washing what was salvageable and trying to rationalise what is left.  Local parents have also been hard at work cleaning up in the schools, particularly the pre primary and primary schools at the back of St John's church which were badly affected by the same flows that filled up the grounds of the Opera House hotel.

Up in the old town, around Stavros church, there was severe damage as torrents of water funneled through the narrow lanes, washing away ancient steps and paving and in one case causing a centuries old house to collapse.  Reports are slowly coming in of significant damage to the island's rural chapels including the one over on Nimos.  No doubt more damage will be discovered as people are able to get to these locations.  Many places on Symi are inaccessible at the best of times.

The economic loss to an island already struggling after years of austerity and poor tourist seasons is massive but miraculously there was no loss of life, no reports of serious injury and even the animal population seems to have survived relatively unscathed. While there is life, there is hope and the Symiots are a tenacious community - they have had to be to survive 3000 years on a lump of rock with no fresh water and little arable land! 

More heavy rain is forecast for this weekend and sandbags are already appearing across doorways in the harbour - including ours.  Hopefully everything that is going to fall off the mountainside has already done so and we won't see the same deluge again, but if we do we are ready for it.

Have a good weekend.

Regards,
Adriana 

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Panormitis 2017

We went over to Panormitis late on Tuesday afternoon.  Although this was 'off peak', there were still plenty of people there and we had to park quite a long way up the road and walk down. The first thing that struck me, walking down the road, was that the iconic bell tower is currently wrapped in scaffolding.  It isn't only Big Ben in London that is undergoing a much-needed face lift.

The second thing that caught my eye was the carpet sellers.  No, I have absolutely no idea what chap on the right is doing!

Every year a fair is set up just inside the gates, on the open ground between the war memorial and the start of the main monastery buildings.  Most of the stalls come from Rhodes. The first zone, once one has run the gauntlet of the carpet sellers at the entrance, is given over to Greek fast food of all kinds. Roast corn on the cob and chestnuts, anybody?

There were plenty of grill 'houses' selling souvlaki, including one set up by the high school of Symi.  There were also vendors selling candy floss, elaborate ice cream cones in bilious colours, sticky cakes, loukomadia (Greek doughnuts) and all sorts of other sugar bombs.

As our nearest Marks and Spencer is in Rhodes, many Symiots stock up on socks at the annual Panormitis festival.  Toys are something else not readily available on Symi so another hit among local shoppers.

Lurid underwear and yet more socks!

Kitchen utensils, cheap screwdrivers, mobile phone covers, alarm clocks, dodgy electronics...  you can find all sorts of jolly junk for a euro at the Panormitis festival.

From the secular to the sacred, on Wednesday 8 November the proper ceremonies dedicated to St Michael the Archangel took place, attended by the Mayor of Symi, Lefteris Papakalodoukas and his councillors.  Photograph by Dawn Sproson.

Photograph by Dawn Sproson

Photograph by Dawn Sproson

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About this Blog

I sailed into Panormitis Bay, Symi, by chance one windy July day in 1993 and have been here ever since. The locals tell me that this is one of the miracles of St Michael of Panormitis. A BA graduate with majors in English, Philosophy and Classical Civilisation, the idea of living in what is to all intents and purposes an archaeological site appeals to me. Not as small as Kastellorizo, not as touristy as Rhodes, Symi is just the right size. I live on a small holding which my husband and I have reclaimed from a ruin of over-grazing and neglect and turned into a small oasis over the course of the past 22 years. I also work part-time for Symi Visitor Accommodation, helping independent travellers discover and enjoy Symi's simple pleasures for themselves.

This page is kindly sponsored by Wendy Wilcox, Symi Visitor Accommodation.


Adriana Shum

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