Deadly Wildfires Ravage Mainland Greece, Forcing Evacuations

Fires Greece Fire truck

Strong winds and scorching temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) have led to the outbreak of 61 wildfires across Greece in the last 24 hours, resulting in the tragic deaths of two people in central Greece on Wednesday.

The devastating fires have prompted a fresh wave of evacuations in the hard-hit area of Magnesia, located north of Athens.

Authorities found the body of a 45-year-old shepherd in a rural region on Wednesday evening, while an earlier report from state TV ERT indicated the discovery of a woman's body. Both fatalities were attributed to the ravaging fires.

Firefighters, supported by 15 fire engines, are bravely battling the flames threatening the industrial zone of Volos, the regional capital. A separate wildfire has also flared near the city of Lamia, to the south of Volos, prompting the evacuation of residents in various settlements.

An intense summer heatwave has been causing wildfires from Portugal to Sicily and Algeria throughout the Mediterranean. On the Greek island of Rhodes, where over 20,000 foreign visitors and locals evacuated over the weekend, the fires are beginning to subside, but efforts to extinguish a long-standing uncontrolled blaze near a mountainous area in the south of Rhodes continue.

Fire brigade spokesperson Ioannis Artopios emphasized the challenges faced by Civil Protection forces in tackling the blazes, calling it the most difficult summer day. On Thursday, he warned that the fire risk remains extreme for several areas in Greece.

Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias expressed concerns about the dangerous summer days Greece is experiencing. Strong winds, abnormally high temperatures, and climate change have contributed to the wildfires becoming a recurring issue in the country, causing significant financial burdens for firefighting efforts.

The government is working to contain the damage to Greece's reputation as a popular tourist destination. Rhodes, being one of the top tourist spots, has seen around 3,000 tourists leave, and tour operators cancel upcoming trips. Authorities stress that only a small part of the island has been affected, aiming to reassure visitors and hoteliers.

Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and Italian President Sergio Mattarella discussed collaborating and raising awareness in the European Union to address the urgent matter of climate change and its impact on wildfires.

As a measure of safety due to the intense heat, the government closed the ancient Acropolis in Athens at 11 a.m. Firefighting efforts on Rhodes alone have incurred significant costs, amounting to about 7.5 million euros ($8.3 million) thus far.

Copyright Greekcitytimes 2024