Major Wildfires Sweeping through Forests in Greece Force Evacuations

Major Wildfires Sweeping through Forests in Greece Force Evacuations

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Major wildfires burning for days in northeastern Greece and on the fringes of the country’s capital have incinerated more tracts of forest and forced additional evacuations Thursday.

It came as firefighters struggled against strong winds and arid conditions to bring the multiple fronts under control.

The wildfires have left 20 people dead over the last week. Eighteen of those, including two boys aged between 10 and 15, are believed to be migrants who crossed the nearby border with Turkey. Their bodies were found by firefighters near a shack in a burnt forest area in northeastern Greece, AP reported.

Sixty firefighters have been injured battling the flames, fire department spokesman Ioannis Artopios said Thursday.

Elsewhere in Europe, fires on Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands, northwestern Turkey near the border with Greece, Portugal and Italy were being brought under control, officials said.

In Greece, dozens of firefighting aircraft, including from other European countries, assisted hundreds crews on the ground trying to beat back multiple fires raging across the country. On Wednesday alone, firefighters battled 99 separate blazes across the country, authorities said.

In Greece’s northeast, a major fire in the Alexandroupolis area that forced numerous evacuations, including of the city’s general hospital, was burning for a sixth day with few signs of abating.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service, the Alexandroupolis fire had scorched more than 723 square kilometers (280 square miles) by Wednesday, making it one of the largest on European soil in several years. Copernicus is the EU space program’s Earth observation component and uses satellite imagery to provide mapping data.

On the outskirts of Athens, a major fire that destroyed homes in the foothills of Mount Parnitha on Wednesday was racing across the mountain’s forested slopes and threatened the heart of a national park that’s one of the last wooded areas near the Greek capital.

Evacuation orders were issued for several outlying suburbs overnight into Thursday, while other neighborhoods were put on standby for possible evacuation.

With firefighting forces stretched to the limit, Greece has asked other European countries for assistance. Germany, Sweden, Croatia and Cyprus have sent aircraft, while dozens of Romanian, French, Czech, Bulgarian and Albanian firefighters have been helping on the ground.

Artopios, the Greek fire department spokesman, said 260 firefighters, including more than a dozen from France, were battling the Parnitha fire supported by a multinational force of 10 planes and 11 helicopters. Bulgarian, Albanian, Romanian and Czech firefighters with vehicles were helping in the Alexandroupolis fire.

With their hot, dry summers, southern European countries are particularly prone to wildfires. European Union officials have blamed climate change for the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in Europe, noting that 2022 was the second-worst year for wildfire damage on record after 2017.

Gale-force winds combined with hot, dry weather to whip up the flames over the past week in Greece, making the blazes exceptionally difficult to bring under control.

Weather conditions this summer have been “the worst since meteorological data have been gathered and the fire risk map has been issued in the country,” Greece’s Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said Wednesday. Extensive parts of the country have been placed at Level 5 – the highest for fire risk – seven times this year. Kikilias said that was double the number of 2021, four times that of 2019 and seven times more than in 2012.

In Spain’s Tenerife, a fire that has scorched 150 square kilometers (58 square miles) was being brought under control by Wednesday night.

“It’s a very tough battle that the firefighting teams are winning,” Canary regional government counselor Manuel Miranda said Wednesday evening.

In Turkey, firefighters in the northwestern Canakkale province on Thursday brought a wildfire under control less than 48 hours after it erupted amid high temperatures and strong winds, Turkish Forestry Minister Ibrahim Yumakli said.

Yumakli said the fire, which had forced the evacuation of 11 villages, had affected 40 square kilometers (15 square miles) including 14 square kilometers (5.4 square miles) of agricultural land.

A firefighting volunteer who was injured and six other people who suffered from smoke inhalation were being kept under observation in hospitals, Yumakli said.

“We are extremely happy that there was no loss of life,” Yamukli said. “However, we are heartbroken for other creatures of the ecosystem that were affected.”

Shipping traffic through the Dardanelles Strait, a major maritime thoroughfare linking the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara, was being partially restored to one lane only, after being completely suspended as fire-dousing aircraft use the waterway to pick up water.

Yumakli said another fire in central Turkey has also been brought under control and there were no other active wildfires in the country on Thursday.

Two large fires in Portugal and a smaller one in Italy were brought under control by Thursday, those countries’ authorities said, but temperatures – and the risk of new fires – remained high.

Source: Tasnim News