The underwater village: Greek town forced to move to combat risk of climate change

The storm was a once in a thousand years' meteorological event, villagers were told. Credit: ITV News

By Maria Kagkelidou, in Metamorfosi, Greece

The villagers of Metamorfosi are afraid.

Since September 7 when storm Daniel hit, Metamorfosi’s more than 200 inhabitants have been scattered around nearby villages and towns.

Two people drowned as the storm hit and the village was left completely submerged underwater.

The storm was a once in a thousand years' meteorological event, they were told. But they now live in fear that even if they manage to repair the damage and return to their village, Metamorfosi will soon face yet another catastrophe.

Copernicus, the EU’s climate observatory, today reported that 2023 was the warmest year on record with a 1.48C rise in temperature driven by human-caused climate change - which appears to confirm their worst fears.

The severe flooding caused by Storm Daniel killed two people in Metamorfosi

Petros Kontogiannis, a fireman who also serves as the village president, told ITV News: "In 2020, storm Janus meant we had to fight for five days and nights to save our village, then came Diomedes, another bad weather system, and then Daniel in 2023.

"And just a few weeks after that came another storm called Elias."

He said this is why the villagers voted overwhelmingly in December to adopt a proposal by the Greek Government to move landlocked Metamorfosi, a village dating to at least the 13th century, a few miles up the road on slightly higher ground.

"Our village lies at the lowest point of the Thessaly plain and it is clear that climate change is here," Mr Kontogiannis said. "We have so far failed to act but now we have to."

Thomas Dandos, a farmer who lives down the road from Mr Kontogiannis, agrees.

Mr Dandos spent the night of the storm trapped on the roof of his combine harvester before he and his dog, along with many others, were rescued by a fellow villager in his fishing boat.

"There is no winter anymore, we just don’t get proper winter for years at a time," Mr Dandos told ITV News.

Petros Kontogiannis (left), a fireman who also serves as the village president, spoke alongside his father. Credit: ITV News

"We may have a little snowfall, but the snow will have disappeared in a day or two.

"In the old days, when I went to school, there were stalactites hanging from the roofs for weeks because winters were very cold."

Mr Kontogiannis pointed out: "The last few years we have unseasonable good weather in December and January and maybe we’ll experience some colder temperatures in March.

"And this year things are even worse.

"We are walking round in t-shirts in the middle of winter… What else do we need to realise that the threat has not gone?

"The climate is starting to resemble that of the tropics.

"For the past few years, we sometimes get the same amount of water it used to rain over, say, five years, in just a couple of days. It’s not normal."

Metamorfosi may not be the only village to be moved uphill to counter the increased risks of a changing climate.

Storm Daniel affected over 50 settlements in the Thessaly region and some of them, including neighbouring Vlochos village, are also considering a move.

But it’s still hard to say goodbye. Mr Dandos is getting ready to use special equipment to clean the still muddied walls of his family home, and so are most of the families in the village.

Any move, they say, will only be partial - they will still use the homes they were born in for part of the year.

Mr Kontogiannis, one of the move’s strongest proponents, says his dad is busy rebuilding the family compound too.

He adds: "But we are now constantly fearing the worst and thinking of repairing our homes accordingly, using cheap materials like plastic even for our ceilings so that may be able to withstand the next flood."

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