Greek Fires Force Thousands More to Evacuate
ATHENS – Firefighters continued to fight fires across Greece on Saturday after another difficult night that saw thousands more flee their homes and hundreds evacuated by sea, as southern Europe grapples with struggling with one of its worst heat waves in decades.
Forest fires are also still raging in Turkey, which is on its eleventh day of attempting to extinguish the flames ravaging its southern coast that have killed at least eight people and destroyed hundreds of acres of land.
High winds in Greece hampered nighttime firefighting efforts on Friday as forest fires ravaged swathes of forests north of Athens, the capital, and mountains and farmland on the island of ‘Evia and in the south of the Peloponnese peninsula.
North of the capital, police went door to door urging people to abandon their homes, and they evacuated a migrant detention center for the second time in two days.
In the first light of day on Saturday, firefighters and planes from several countries – including Croatia, Cyprus, France, Israel, Sweden and Ukraine – joined their Greek counterparts to fight the fires that dot the mainland and islands . Romania and Switzerland also sent aid, followed by the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany and Spain.
Fifty-five fires were active across the country, the largest of which were north of Athens, on the island of Evia and Fokida, in central Greece, according to Nikos Hardalias, deputy minister of Civil Protection, speaking at a briefing early Saturday afternoon. . He added that the situation had improved slightly since Friday, but that the fires were constantly reigniting as the winds strengthened.
Six fires continued to rage in Turkey on Saturday, where more than 220 have erupted in the past two weeks. The south coast, which is home to popular tourist areas as well as farmland, has borne the brunt of this.
Dozens of firefighting planes and thousands of firefighters worked to control the wildfires, but overnight, according to TV reports, the flames moved north, reaching a new town and forcing six quarters to be evacuated.
Earlier on Saturday in Greece, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his government’s priority was to protect human lives and then, where possible, people’s property.
A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter from Ippokrateios Politeia, a settlement north of Athens affected by the fires, died Thursday from head injuries after being hit by a falling electricity pylon.
More than 20 people were burned, including four firefighters, two of whom were seriously injured. President Katerina Sakellaropoulou visited these firefighters on Saturday in a hospital in Athens.
The fires have razed tens of thousands of hectares of forests, but the number of homes destroyed remains uncertain.
Officials said at least three people have been arrested and face arson charges in connection with the fires in Kryoneri, north of Athens; in Fthiotida, in central Greece; and in Kalamata, in southern Greece.
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