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Rare 'Medicane' storm batters Greece's Ionian islands

Friday, September 18th 2020, 11:46 am - The term 'Mediterranean cyclone' -- or shortened to 'Medicane' -- is very similar to a hurricane, though it has some important differences.

ATHENS (Reuters) - A rare storm, known as a Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane), hit western Greece on Friday, flooding streets, uprooting trees and causing power cuts in the Ionian islands of Kefalonia, Zakynthos and Ithaca.

The fire brigade said it had received at least 60 calls for assistance, mainly to cut down trees and pump water out of homes and stores. In Kefalonia, a boat sank.

Kefalonia's Mayor Theofilos Michalatos said no one was hurt but homes, transport infrastructure and water facilities had been damaged. The impact was similar in Zakynthos and Ithaca, where power cuts were also extensive.

WATCH BELOW: WHAT EXACTLY IS A 'MEDICANE'?

The storm, named Ianos, which reached the western Peloponnese peninsula around midday, appeared milder than initially estimated, meteorologists said.

A Reuters witness said there was heavy rainfall in the area of Pyrgos in western Peloponnese, where the streets were empty, and strong winds.

Medicane batters Greece (Reuters) A boat leans towards a wall during storm Ianos in Agia Efimia, Kefalonia, Greece September 18, 2020, in this still image from a social media video. Apostolos Moustakis/via REUTERS

A vessel in the gulf of Kyparissia sent a distress signal, the coastguard said.

"The cyclone will remain west, with the same intensity for 6-9 hours and then, weaker, will start moving to the south," Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said.

A man removes water from a restaurant in the village of Gastouni, as a rare storm, known as a Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane), hit western Greece, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas A man removes water from a restaurant in the village of Gastouni, as a rare storm, known as a Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane), hit western Greece, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

The storm may also hit central Greece, where heavy rain was expected, Hardalias said, before reaching the wider Athens region on Saturday.

Authorities said the intensity and course of the cyclone could not be accurately predicted. These cyclones first appeared in Greece in 1995 and have become more frequent in recent years.

A man removes water from a restaurant in the village of Gastouni, as a rare storm, known as a Medicane (Mediterranean hurricane), hit western Greece, September 18, 2020. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

A similar storm hit Greece in 2018. In 2017, flash floods killed 25 people and left hundreds homeless.

(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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