The forest fires that hit Greece for five days burned down in the early hours of this Saturday (7) towns north of the capital Athens, in addition to the island of Euboea, from where 1,300 people were evacuated by boat.
Across the Aegean Sea, the blaze had abated but was still burning at six points across Turkey, in what President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the worst blaze in the country’s history.
A total of eight people have already died in the fires that ravaged the Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions for 11 days, affecting tens of thousands of hectares and forcing residents and tourists to leave their homes and hotels.
The current moment in Greece has been defined by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as “the summer of a nightmare” as the country faces the worst heat wave in 30 years. In the past 24 hours alone, more than 400 fires have broken out across the country, most affecting the island of Eubeia.
On Mount Parnitha, north of Athens, fires have forced the evacuation of thousands of people since Thursday (5). The flames appeared to have subsided this Saturday, but the forecast was that the winds would intensify, which should make the situation even worse.
At least 1,450 Greek firefighters, aided by reinforcements from other countries like Cyprus, France and Israel, and military support and 15 water bombing planes, were active in the blaze north of the capital .
Residents of the northern suburbs of Athens have been forced to rush with what little possessions they can take. “Our things, our house, all our belongings are there. I hope they don’t burn down,” said Yorgos Papaioannou, 26.
Forecasts in some areas of strong winds and temperatures of up to 38 ° C do not indicate that the situation should improve. The highway connecting Athens to the north of the country remains closed as a precaution, while neighboring immigrant camps have been evacuated.
“In no case can we be complacent,” said Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias. “We are fighting a huge battle.”
The fire also reached the Peloponnese, in the south of the country, and reached Olympia, the city where the ancient Olympic Games were held. The mayor of Mani, Eleni Drakoulakou, who is in the same region, criticized the lack of means to fight the fire which burned 15 villages in the city. “We were lost, when a helicopter would have solved it in two hours,” he told local television. More than 5,000 tourists had to leave the site in a hurry.
High winds sparked fire in the town of Thrakomakedones, north of Athens, on Friday evening, and houses were set on fire. Residents were ordered to evacuate the city and there was no sign of casualties. A cloud of smoke hovered over the capital. “The situation is very bad,” said Thanasis Kaloudis, a resident of Thrakomakedones. “All of Greece has been burnt to the ground.
The government has promised to reimburse those affected by the fires and said it will reforest the scorched lands, Mitsotakis said. “When this nightmare summer is over, we will repair all the damage as quickly as possible,” the Prime Minister said.
The fire doesn’t stop in California
In the United States, the fire that has raged in northern California since mid-July continues to spread and has burned more than 175,000 hectares.
The fire, nicknamed Dixie, devastated historic upstate Greenville. “I am a longtime resident of Greenville. My heart is devastated by what happened here,” said Plumas County Sheriff Todd Johns. “Those who lost their homes and businesses have seen their lives change forever, and all I can tell them is I’m sorry,” he said.
The village of Greenville was in ruins. The wooden structures have completely disappeared and some buildings have been reduced to rubble by fire.
Todds said there had been no injuries so far, but stressed that it was essential for people to comply with evacuation orders. “This fire is not over. If the flames are in your direction, you must prepare. Wherever the wind blows, there will be fire,” he warned.
Forest fires are common in California, but with climate change they are becoming more and more devastating. By the end of July, the fire had already destroyed nearly three times as much vegetation as at the same time in 2020, so far the year with the most serious fires in the history of the state.