The European Commission is set to grant an aid package worth €16.2 million (US$18 million) to Greece and Bulgaria following natural disasters that occurred in the winter of 2015.
Greece suffered from wide-spread flooding affecting five of its regions, while considerable damage was caused in Bulgaria due to severe winter conditions.
The aid is to come from the EU Solidarity Fund and consists of €9.9 million for Greece and €6.3 million for Bulgaria. It will cover part of the emergency costs of recovery operations following the disasters in both countries. In particular, it will help restore vital infrastructure and services, reimburse the cost of emergency and rescue operations and cover some of the clean-up costs in the affected regions.
Commissioner for Regional Policy Corina Crețu said: “The EU Solidarity Fund is one of our strongest symbols of solidarity in times of need. Today we are bringing financial support to the regions of Greece and Bulgaria affected by the disasters of this winter, which caused considerable damage. Now we can start rebuilding, together.”
Floods in Greece, Winter 2015
From the beginning of February 2015, Greece was affected by wide-spread flooding in the broader area of the rivers Evros and Ardas in the East Macedonia and Thrace Region. The flooding in the Evros basin particularly affected the agricultural sector; about 17 500 ha of land were flooded, destroying farming infrastructure, warehouses and crops. Furthermore, 150 km of roads were damaged, as well as water supplies and sewerage in many buildings.
During the same period, major parts of Central and Western Greece, including the regions of Epirus, West Greece, Central Greece and Thessaly, were affected by similar events. They suffered from heavy rainfall and storms, as well as strong snowfall in the mountains and stormy south winds in offshore and onshore areas. The adverse weather conditions triggered power failures, rivers burst their banks and extensive landslides resulted in a number of mountainous settlements being isolated and inhabitants having to be evacuated.
The disaster caused damage to more than 60% of the road network in Epirus. Private homes, shops and other commercial businesses, and farms were affected, and some of Greece’s cultural heritage assets were significantly damaged, including the historic bridge of Plaka, in Tzoumerka which was swept away by the raging waters of the Arachthos River.
Floods in Bulgaria, Winter 2015
At the end of January 2015, parts of Bulgaria also suffered from heavy rainfall, snow, floods and landslides. As a result, considerable damage was caused to public infrastructure, businesses, private homes and assets, and the agricultural sector was harmed. The South-East region of Bulgaria was the hardest hit by the events. In the city of Burgas alone, over 300 buildings were flooded. Landslides destroyed important infrastructure; dykes broke, many rivers burst their banks and flooded agricultural land and forests. Gusty winds destroyed pine forests, caused power failures that disrupted the communication networks, and roads were blocked by fallen trees.