Fires continue to ravage Greece, causing widespread destruction and prompting evacuations; wildfires also threaten neighbouring Turkey and Spain’s Canary Islands.
Raging wildfires have engulfed vast areas of Greece, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake, with a reported death toll of 20 people. These relentless fires have been burning for days. Show no signs of abating as they devour both forests and homes. Greece’s largest forest fire, located near the city of Alexandroupolis in the northeast, remains out of control after five days. Another major blaze on the outskirts of Athens has already consumed homes and encroached upon the national park on Mount Parnitha.
The scale of the crisis is alarming, with a total of 355 wildfires erupting from Friday to Tuesday. As revealed by Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias. As of Wednesday, firefighters were grappling with a staggering 99 blazes, 55 of which ignited within the previous 24 hours.
Arrests and Ongoing Threat
Authorities have made 140 wildfire-related arrests, including 117 for negligence and 23 for deliberate arson, according to fire department spokesman Ioannis Artopios. The majority of these arrests are linked to heat-inducing or agricultural outdoor activities.
Unfavorable weather conditions have exacerbated the situation, with gale-force winds combining with hot, dry weather to whip up the flames. These conditions have made it exceptionally challenging to bring the blazes under control, authorities have said.
Minister Kikilias, during a news conference, described this summer’s weather conditions as “the worst since meteorological data have been gathered and the fire risk map has been issued in the country.” As a result, extensive parts of Greece have been designated as Level 5, signifying the highest fire risk, a staggering seven times this year. This represents a significant increase compared to 2021, with double the number of designations, and four times that of 2019. Moreover, it’s seven times more than in 2012, underscoring the unprecedented nature of this crisis.
Evacuations and Ongoing Risk
In response to the escalating threat, authorities have issued numerous evacuation orders covering villages, the outskirts of Alexandroupolis, and seaside areas. The Coast Guard and private boats have been engaged in rescue operations. Helping to evacuate people from beaches and coastal areas.
While some regions are experiencing a gradual reduction in wind intensity, the risk of new fires remains alarmingly high. Fire department spokesman Ioannis Artopios has emphasized that “conditions remain difficult and in many cases extreme.”
Tragedy Strikes in Alexandroupolis
As these wildfires continued to ravage the land, the scale of the tragedy became even more evident when firefighters discovered the bodies of 18 people. They were believed to be migrants in a forest in the Alexandroupolis region, near the border with Turkey, on Tuesday. This grim discovery underscores the profound human toll that these devastating fires have exacted on the region.