A dramatic rescue

A dramatic rescue


Torrential rain swamped Athens on Jan 22, the heaviest downpour the normally sunny Greek capital had seen in decades.

As the deluge poured through some of the city's streets, Reuters photographer John Kolesidis saw a woman trapped next to her car being pounded by a surging torrent of water. He documented as locals helped get her to safety, and also lent a hand in her rescue himself.

. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

A woman is trapped next to her car as a gush of water surges past. A local resident holds her arm after having clambered onto the car to help her.

. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

The scared woman tries to grip the car door while the man reaches for her arm.

. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

As the water level sinks, another man helps the first rescuer, who releases the woman's leg that had been trapped by branches.

. ATHENS, Greece. REUTERS/John Kolesidis

The water subsides and the woman is carried to safety.

"She was panicking, and the look on her face was crying out for help."
John Kolesidis, Reuters Photographer

Today I woke up to the deafening sound of thunder. The rain was pouring hard.

I made myself a cup of coffee and watched the rain outside my window flood the surrounding streets. I had no idea how I would get to the office without getting soaked, so I decided to stay put until things calmed down a bit. But when I finished my coffee, I looked out the window again and things had taken a dramatic turn.

A little further down the street I could see a car trapped by the flood and I heard muffled voices too. I put on my galoshes and raincoat, took my cameras, and tried to reach the vehicle.

I walked through a small park, but that led me behind barbed wire that I couldn’t cross. I saw a woman trying to hold onto her car door, with water up to her waist. I called out to her not to be scared, urging her to cling onto the door until I could get closer.

I took some pictures behind the barbed wire and tried to find a way to cross the flooded park so that I could get to her. When I got in front of the fence, there was a cascade between me and the woman, who was stranded on the other side of the road. People were looking on from their balconies, and I started shouting out to them to call the fire brigade. Then a man on the same side of the street climbed on top of her car, and another man managed to approach as well.

The woman’s leg was trapped among the branches that were being washed away under her car door, and she could easily get swept away too. She was panicking, and the look on her face was crying out for help. I called out to her to hang on, and urged the men who had got to her to encourage her.

I took some more pictures, and since I was at a loss as to what to do next, I rushed back to the park to try to find some rope. All I could get my hands on was a long, tangled watering hose. A woman helped me cut off a big chunk of it, and I carried it back to the woman trapped in the flood.

By that time, the water had calmed down a bit, and a man was by her side trying to untangle her leg. I slung my cameras across my back and reached them. We managed to remove the branches from the car door and her legs and she was free.

A happy ending was on the cards, and I stroked her face and kissed her hand. The young woman who had helped me with the hose was there beside me too. Everyone helped to carry her away from the car.

I picked up my camera again and took some more pictures. I also helped carry her on the way to the closest “refuge”. In the end, I felt extremely relieved. During the whole thing, I kept thinking that I wouldn’t be able to find it in me to pick up my camera and start shooting if the waters had washed her away.