A volunteer firefighter was killed in a fire that threatened the most important national park in the Greek capital, and at least 20 people were injured in the fires during the country’s worst heat wave in 30 years, with temperatures of up to 45 ° C (113 ° F).
Thousands of residents and tourists have fled the flames by land and sea, while in Turkey fires of a ferocity not seen in decades swept through swaths of the country’s southern coast, killing eight people in the past 10 days.
Wildfires that could not be controlled consumed homes, farms and businesses in Greece on Saturday, while small ferries evacuated 1,153 people from a coastal town and beaches on the island of Evia.
Neighbors tried to create new paths for the flames with the help of tractors and other equipment, after the fires devoured pine forests and moved towards the coast.
More than 150 fires have been reported, and on the northern outskirts of Athens people were urged to evacuate.
A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter in Athens died after suffering a head injury from falling from a telegraph pole in the suburb of Ippokrateios Politeia.
At least 20 people have required treatment across the country, including two firefighters who were in intensive care.
After razing forests and houses near the capital’s main water reservoir, the flames approached Mount Parnitha National Park, one of the last remaining great forests in the Athens region.
Another fire invaded the Greek region of Mani in the Peloponnese on Saturday, where East Mani’s Deputy Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou called for more support for water planes, which are struggling to fly at night, and told the broadcaster state ERT that 70% of its area had been destroyed.
“It is a biblical catastrophe. We are talking about three-quarters of the municipality, ”said Drakoulakou.
Hells, fanned by winds that often changed direction on Friday, became unmanageable for Greece. The efforts are now supported by firefighters and special aircraft from France, Ukraine, Cyprus, Croatia, Sweden and Israel. More aid was expected to arrive on Saturday from Switzerland and Romania.
Civil Protection Chief Nikos Hardalias, speaking during a briefing on Friday night, said firefighters faced “exceptionally dangerous and unprecedented conditions” while fighting 154 wildfires this week, with 64 still burning at night.
“In recent days we have faced an unprecedented situation in our country, in the intensity and wide distribution of forest fires, and new outbreaks everywhere,” he said. “I want to assure you that all available forces are participating in the fight.”
While forest fires are common in Greece and other Mediterranean countries in the height of summer, Greek and EU officials have raised concerns about the climate crisis exacerbating the problem.
Southern Italy, Spain, and Albania and North Macedonia have also been hit by wildfires this hot season, while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described the fires in Turkey as the worst in the country’s history.
The causes of the devastating fires in Greece are still under investigation. Hardals said three people were arrested on Friday in the Athens metropolitan area and in central and southern Greece on suspicion of starting fires, in two cases intentionally.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism