Greek officials said the country suffered damages amounting to 2.34 billion euros ($2.61 billion)

Parts of the central Greek island of Rhodes were under water on Wednesday as torrential rains over the past week slammed two coastal towns, killing at least six people.

The deaths in the region come after the country suffered some of the heaviest rainfall of its winter in recent years, and added to concerns over the vulnerability of the country’s built-up natural defences.

“There are still at least six dead, while thousands are homeless,” said Tzini Luke, a police officer on the island.

Emergency authorities launched a massive operation to check houses for bodies.

“The idea is to find people who have left their homes to seek safety in neighbouring districts. We don’t know how many are missing,” the Hellenic Red Cross said in a statement.

Fifty-two houses and more than 300 shops were flooded after a section of the main passageway between two inland islands, Oeira and Pireaus, was opened to allow rescue helicopters to land, rescue officials said.

The downpour has caused the worst damage on the island of Rhodes since 1945, but all towns nearby were ordered to remain under water until Friday.

Eight bodies were discovered on Wednesday after a landslide hit the last ferry in Rhodes, officials said.

“Floods of varying depths forced the removal of over 350 cars and motorcycles, and many homes were filled with water after this incident,” said Raoul Panagiotakis, the governor of Rhodes.

Across Greece, disaster and rescue authorities took in some 200,000 people, 23.6 per cent of the population, according to official figures.

Over the past week, 60 kilometers (37 miles) of Athens was under water, with water levels in the city of Thessaloniki over six metres (18 feet) above normal levels, according to AFP aerial footage.

Greece has suffered a series of heavy downpours during October and December over the past week. Parts of the capital were submerged, though authorities did not cite any immediate problems.

More than 60,000 properties across Greece were affected by flood or flooding this year, according to the authorities.

As of Wednesday, four bodies had been recovered from piles of muddy rubbish in central Athens, Athens’ state prosecutor said.

Parts of the capital also faced major flooding in August and the supermarket in a coffee shop in the afternoon hours was hit by 10cm (4.6 inches) of rain, officials said.