Wildfires Tear Through Greece

Over the past few months, natural disasters such as wildfires have been burning across the globe. From British Columbia to Athens to Turkey, acres upon acres worth of forests and homes have been devastated. As of August 3, 2021, significant swaths of Greece have been highly impacted by a series of wildfires across the country.

What’s Happening?

Beginning on August 3, 2021, a number of major wildfires ravaged Greece, destroying swaths of forested mountainsides and homes. One of the most significant fires devastated Greece’s second-largest island, Evia, from coast to coast, essentially cutting it in half. The other fires have engulfed massive areas, leaving behind destruction of biblical proportions.

Figure 1 – Thrakomakedones / Figure 2 – Drosopigi / Figure 3 – Platanos

On Friday, August 6th, 10 ships – including 2 Coast Guard patrols, 2 ferries, 2 passenger ships, and 4 fishing boats – waited at the seaside resort of Pefki (see map), in case evacuations were required. On Friday night, the flames from the fire cut off any other means of escape, resulting in the forced evacuation of about 1,400 via boat from Pefki. As the fires raged, the sky in Pefki was bright orange (see figures 4 & 5).

That same night, authorities struggled with 154 wildfires across the country, working to save towns such as Istiaia just north of Evia (see map). The firefighters fought through the area, using bulldozers to clear paths through the thick forest brush. The other fires were located in Greece’s southern Peloponnese peninsula, with one near Ancient Olympia, and the other in the Mani region of Peloponnese – just south of Sparta. The Eastern Olympia fire moved east of the ancient site on Saturday afternoon, threatening entire villages.

On Saturday, local officials and residents broadcasted appeals for more firefighters and water-dropping planes. The fire department said 575 firefighters with 35 ground teams and a total of 89 vehicles were battling the Evia wildfire alone, including 112 Romanian and 100 Ukrainian firefighters sent to Greece as reinforcements. As well, 4 helicopters and 3 planes provided air support.

North of Athens, Mount Parnitha national park (see map) was still burning on Saturday, however, a Fire Service spokesman stated containment efforts in the area were going well. Unfortunately, at the time smoke from this fire was still spreading across the Athens basin, sending choking smoke across the Grecian capital.

On Sunday morning, the Greek authorities authorized the evacuation of 4 more villages in northern Evia, however, many residents have chosen to stay behind and hope to save their homes. As well, hundreds of more people were evacuated from Evia by ferry, with mass amounts of smoke hanging over the island. Coast Guard ships remain on standby in case more residents and vacationers need to be brought to safety.

Overall, over the past 10 days, more than 56,000 hectares have been burned in Greece, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. To date, these fires have claimed 2 lives, including a volunteer firefighter and the president of the Athens Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Additionally, 2 volunteer firefighters have been hospitalized and are in critical condition. According to the Greek media, there have been a total of 18 people injured, with most of them having respiratory problems or minor burns. Meanwhile, 2 individuals were reportedly detained for suspected arson. A 43-year-old man was charged with arson after being arrested in the Krioneri region, and a woman was arrested in a park near Athens with two lighters, petrol, and flammable materials.

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