Fires Continue to Ravage Greece Amid Europe’s Protracted Heat Wave
ATHENS – Huge forest fires raged across several parts of Greece on Sunday, forcing thousands more from their homes and razing vast swathes of forest, with even more countries stepping in to help control efforts against Greek fires.
Forest fires were also flaring up in neighboring Turkey, where at least eight people have died, as well as in other parts of Europe, which are suffering from a prolonged heat wave and drought that created powder keg conditions.
On Sunday morning, Greek authorities ordered the evacuation of four other villages in northern Evia, an island northeast of Athens, but many residents remained behind in a desperate effort to protect their homes. State television broadcast video footage of residents and firefighters using garden hoses and tree branches in an attempt to put out the advancing flames.
Hundreds more were evacuated from Evia by ferry on Sunday, with TV footage showing large clouds of gray smoke hanging over the island and obscuring the sun. Coast Guard vessels remained on standby to move residents and vacationers to safety. And bulldozers were used to create firewalls on the outskirts of thick forests, in an attempt to prevent flames from passing them.
Overwhelmed by multiple fires fueled by the record heat wave, Greek authorities have requested help from several countries to fight the blazes. Several – including Croatia, Cyprus, France, Israel, Romania, Spain and Sweden – have already sent planes and firefighters. Many others, including Britain, Germany, Poland and Qatar, were also sending aid.
The worst fires on Sunday took place on Evia – Greece’s second-largest island, which has seen huge sections of pristine pine forests reduced to ash – and in the southern Peloponnese peninsula, where the home of the Games Olympic Games, ancient Olympia, was threatened by flames. last week.
A large fire that broke out north of Athens on Tuesday, before spreading on several fronts and devastating thousands of hectares of forest, was brought under control early Sunday, but firefighters remained on alert for fear it does not come back on.
The Greek General Secretariat for Civil Protection has warned that the fire risk will remain high for several days. On Monday, the temperature in central Greece is expected to exceed 41 degrees Celsius, or nearly 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday promised that once “this nightmarish summer is over,” the victims of the fires in Greece would be compensated and the destroyed forests would be regenerated. The immediate priority, he stressed, was to protect human life and, if possible, property.
On Friday, a 38-year-old volunteer firefighter from Ippokrateios Politeia, a settlement north of Athens affected by the fires, died of head injuries after being hit by a falling electricity pylon.
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