Gwenaëlle Souyri Alexandros Kottis
Athens and Evia
Under tarpaulins hastily erected north of Athens, around thirty volunteers are mobilizing to care for dozens of cats and dogs abandoned or forgotten during evacuations by fires in Greece.
“Bath time,” shouts a young volunteer, plunging two puppies into a basin of water. With the exception of those with severe burns, rescued animals are bathed every two to three hours to cool their paws.
Under the makeshift tarpaulins installed in seven hours at the foot of an abandoned quarry on the outskirts of the Greek capital, volunteer veterinarians have organized a space for “intensive care” for severe burns, whose wounds require continuous monitoring.
“So far, we have received 233 animals”, explains Yannis Batsas, president of the Voluntary Action of Greek Veterinarians. “And we get about 20 a day,” he told AFP.
Dozens of cities in the Athenian metropolitan area were evacuated in early August due to the advance of the flames which devastated forests and homes about thirty kilometers north of the capital.
In this region, where stray dogs and cats abound, these animals like domestic animals, they were abandoned in the headlong rush of their masters. Near burnt forests, AFP found volunteers picking up abandoned animals in Efnides and other devastated villages.
At the shelter north of Athens, volunteers move between cages, putting ice in bowls, while a fan relieves some of the sweltering heat. In the midst of a concert of barking, dogs with burnt paws and bodies greet the nurses.
On blankets filled with ice, 20 dogs calmly wait for the moment when their owners, or adopters, will come to pick them up. “About 90 animals have returned to their owners,” said Elena Dede, founder of the nonprofit Dog’s Voice.
Of the thousands of volunteers who showed up, especially on the first weekend, many agreed to bring dogs home for about 15 days. “We never have more than 50 animals at the same time, thanks to shelters and adoptions”, rejoices Yannis Batsas.
“There were more than 2,000 people who volunteered,” Elena Dede told AFP, who said “ten tons of dog and cat food” have been collected and will be delivered to kennels in Attica. , in eastern Greece.
NEW CENTER IN EUBEIA?
The wave of solidarity observed in the capital encourages the volunteers to open another center on the island of Evia, which did not control its fires until this Friday (13). “A team went to the island of Eubeia to see the farms, the goats and the sheep,” explains Yannis Batsas.
But “Eubeia is another story. You have to make sure you have the capacity to respond as effectively as here,” adds Elena Dede.
On this island east of Athens, rescuing burnt animals is tricky. “You have to take them by boat, which lengthens the journeys,” laments Irini Tapouti, director of the Calcidia veterinary clinic.
On Pefki beach, on stretchers covered with ashes, Roula Papadimitri and her daughter Eva give first aid and comfort to a dozen dogs saved from the flames.
Fleeing Artemisia on foot, the mother and daughter left their home but saved more than ten dogs. “We had no plans to leave without them,” said Eva. “How can we give up the dogs?” Asks his mother.
Calmly, Roula quenches the dogs’ thirst, while a kitten sneaks through the canines. Roula put three dogs in cages, fearing they would run away and put themselves in danger. “I will not leave them in the mouths of the wolf”, he adds.