In what has been described as Greece’s worst summer for wildfires, more than 350 fires have erupted across the country since Friday, resulting in the deaths of 20 people so far. The devastating wildfires have forced hundreds of residents to evacuate their homes as firefighters and aircraft work tirelessly to contain the spread.
One of the most alarming blazes is near Athens, which has been burning for a second day. Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias reported that there have been 355 wildfires since Friday, with 209 occurring in the last 48 hours. The fire brigade has warned that more fires could break out as conditions remain difficult and extreme in several areas.
In Fyli, a village north of Athens, over 200 firefighters, along with volunteers and support from Sweden and Germany, are battling a blaze that began on Tuesday. The capital city itself has been engulfed in smoke and ash due to the nearby fire. Approximately 150 people have been evacuated from nursing homes in Menidi, with other residents being ordered to leave their homes for their own safety.
Amidst the destruction caused by the fires, there have been acts of heroism. A volunteer managed to rescue an icon of the Virgin Mary from a burning monastery, while police officers removed gas canisters to prevent further catastrophe. However, the fires have already caused significant damage, including the destruction of homes and cars and the displacement of residents.
The fires have not been limited to Athens alone. In northern Evros, a fire has been raging for five days, and the discovery of 18 burned bodies believed to be migrants attempting to flee to the EU has added to the tragedy. The Ionian islands in the northwest of Greece have also been affected by the wildfires.
Experts believe that the severity of the fires has been exacerbated by unusually hot, dry, and windy weather, which is believed to be linked to climate change. Greece is experiencing the worst summer for wildfires since meteorological data began to be collected. In July, a fire on the popular tourist island of Rhodes resulted in the evacuation of tens of thousands of visitors and caused extensive damage to hotels and resorts.
Giorgos Pournaras, the head of the fire brigade, described the current conditions as the most extreme he has faced in his 32 years of service. As the wildfires continue to ravage Greece, efforts to contain the fires and protect affected communities remain a top priority for emergency services.
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