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First climate refugees in Europe: Metamorfosi, Greece

The town of Metamórfosi, located on the plain of Thessaly, Greece, faces a harsh reality due to climate change. On September 7, 2023, Storm Daniel hit the region hard, leaving 17 dead in Greece, two of them in Metamorfosi, and causing unprecedented flooding. "It was like a tsunami," neighbors remember.


Kostas saved many of his neighbors in Metamórfosi, in Greece.
Via ÁNGEL BARROSO I RTVE.ES

The devastation of Storm Daniel

Faní Dadou, who together with her husband Váios runs the only bar in town, opens every morning in the hope of receiving the few remaining customers. After cleaning and cleaning up the mud, they decided to reopen their business for themselves and the community. Although Metamórfosi has experienced floods before, none have been as devastating as that caused by Storm Daniel, which dropped more than 500 liters of water per square meter in two days.


Petros Kontagiánnis, the president of the community, remembers the chaotic days of the flood. The evacuation order, the sound of the 112 alarm, and the frantic effort to get the neighbors to safety in the cultural center, one of the few buildings with two floors, were recorded in his memory. "We lost two of our neighbors, and we could have lost many more," he says .



Heroes and losses in the community

The local hero, Kostas Tasiópoulos, at 81 years old, rescued several of his neighbors with a boat he had built for fishing. Although he is considered a hero, Kostas insists that he only did what he had to do. "I could do it and I did it, I don't believe in heroism," he says.


The town, dedicated mainly to cotton cultivation, faces enormous losses. Athanasios Kostís, a farmer, lost his entire harvest and a good part of his machinery. Greece is the EU's top cotton producer, with 40% of this produced in Thessaly. "We have to start again from scratch and we have no strength," Kostís confesses, estimating the damage at more than 250,000 euros.


"We have to start again from scratch and we have no strength"

The impact of climate change is evident for the inhabitants of Metamorfosi. Elías Dados and his wife Vana Akrivoú consider themselves climate refugees. "We survived, but where are we going to get the strength to start again?" Dice asks . They have spent months removing mud from their house, with the help of the solidarity of many.



The first European climate refugees

After the last flood, the majority of residents voted in a referendum to move to a safer location. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis accepted the request and promised that the town would not be abandoned. The new settlement will be located about six kilometers away, in the municipality of Palamás, a place safer from floods and earthquakes, according to Professor Eftimios Lekkas of the University of Athens.


While they wait for the new houses to be built in the next two years, the residents of Metamórfosi are scattered throughout Greece. Some return to the village occasionally to clean up the mud and try to get their lives back on track. "We will buy the refrigerator again, the sofa, it will be better or worse," Faní says through tears. "But what we will never be able to recover will be the photos of my children's childhood, those of our wedding. That is what hurts us the most, everything that the water took away and that we will not be able to replace."


Climate change has pushed the residents of Metamorfosi to make a difficult decision: leave the place they have called home for generations and start over somewhere else. Their story is a reminder of the challenges that climate change poses and of human resilience in the face of adversity.


"We will buy the refrigerator again, the sofa, it will be better or worse," Faní says through tears. "But what we will never be able to recover will be the photos of my children's childhood, those of our wedding. That is what hurts us the most, everything that the water took away and that we will not be able to replace."


This Wednesday the documentary "Climatic Metamorphosis" premiered at 11:45 p.m. on La 2 and from 8:00 p.m. on RTVE Play .

Also available on Movistar +

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