Greece wildfires: Thousands flee island of Evia as blazes continue to ravage lands

While progress was made in batting blazes near Athens, the island of Evia is still in the grips of uncontrolled fires.

Thousands have fled their homes on the Greek Island of Evia as wildfires continued to rage uncontrolled on Sunday for a sixth day.

Aug 8, 2021: The sky over the island of Evia turned red and orange as people boarded an evacuation ferry on Sunday after days of fires in the area.
Dozens of wildfires have burned in Greece after the longest heatwave in 30 years, which sent temperatures soaring to 45C.

While fires that had posed a risk to the northern suburbs of Athens in the last few days appeared to have died back, the inferno in Evia quickly spread into several fronts and ripped through thousands of hectares of forest land.

Ferries were seen on standby for more evacuations after taking numerous residents of the island to safety by sea.

On Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at a breifing at the Fire Brigade’s Athens heaquarters where he expressed his gratitude to the personnel of the Fire Brigade, the Hellenic Coast Guard, the police and the volunteers who have been battling the fires across the country.

“The situation is slightly better than what it was on Friday,” he said, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency news agency reported.

Mitsotakis added that efforts must continue “with great intensity to contain all fires and prevent any further rekindling.”

The Prime Minister said he wanted to “assure anew all those afflicted by the fires that their recovery will be my first political priority.”

What help is Germany offering?

The German government is preparing to send firefighters and emergency vehicles to Greece to help battle the fires, news agency dpa reported.

An Interior Ministry spokesperson confirmed that firefighters are preparing to “move quickly” to reinforce local teams on the ground.

Some 216 firefighters and 44 firefighting vehicles from Germany will be sent to the affected areas in Greece. An advance team will fly out as early as Sunday to Athens to assess the situation on the ground.

Aug 5, 2021: A blaze on the island of Evia is one of more than 100 burning across Greece. A wildfire that tore through a forest on the outskirts of the capital, Athens, has now receded – but has destroyed homes and businesses.

Germany has also offered to send helicopters to assist with firefighting efforts, although Greece has yet to request their use, dpa reported.

The German government faced pushback from opposition lawmakers for not sending firefighting crews sooner.

Switzerland, Sweden, France, Croatia and Egypt have already sent firefighting airplanes and helicopters to Greece.

Israel, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine have also already sent firefighters to back up Greek emergency crews.

What’s the latest on the fire situation?

Firefighters are currently battling at least 55 active fires, Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said on Saturday afternoon.

The blazes outside the Greek capital Athens were partially brought under control overnight, with Hardalias expecting the fire to be contained by the end of Saturday — unless the winds pick up again.

“Last night was really hell, a nightmare. We have made tremendous efforts to prevent the fire from spreading to inhabited areas,” Nikos Peppas, deputy governor of the Attica region, told Skai TV about the Athens fires.

While the situation improved in Athens, uncontrolled fires continue to rage in northern Evia, Greece’s second-largest island, as well as portions of the Peloponnese peninsula.

The blazes have prompted more mass evacuations. Overnight on Friday, some 1,400 people were rescued by ferry boats from the beaches on the island of Evia.

In the Mani region of the Peloponnese, one official said the fires have destroyed around 70% of her town.

“It’s a biblical catastrophe. We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT.

Devastation across Greece

Over 100 wildfires have broken out across Greece over the past few days alone, according to the Associated Press.

While many have been quickly contained, dozens of others quickly spread — fanned by scorching temperatures caused by a heatwave and strong winds.

At least 60,000 hectares (600 square kilometers, 232 square miles) of land have been burned so far, ERT reported, citing data from the Athens National Observatory.

At least one volunteer firefighter has died battling the fires, while another 20 are being treated for injuries in hospitals.

During a visit to the Athens fire department headquarters on Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed “deep sadness” over the situation.

“When this nightmarish summer has passed, we will turn all our attention to repairing the damage as fast as possible, and in restoring our natural environment again,” Mitsotakis said.

Greece, Italy, Turkey and other parts of southern Europe are currently battling a surge of wildfires, with experts saying climate change is to blame.

Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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