Fire in Greece: the fires continue, the images

Drought, high temperatures and strong winds favor the spread of fires in Greece in July 2023.

Fire in Greece: the fires continue, the images

Drought, high temperatures and strong winds favor the spread of fires in Greece in July 2023. Three people have died in the last ten days.

[Updated July 26, 2023 3:01 PM] New restless day for firefighters in Greece. For more than ten days, the country has been facing devastating fires, fueled by an unprecedented heat wave. In Rhodes, a major tourist destination, more than 13,000 hectares have burned, or about 10% of the island, according to a report from Copernicus, published on Tuesday July 25. The NGO WWF estimated at 35,000 hectares, the area of ​​forest and vegetation gone up in smoke in Greece.

Evacuations are taking place on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu. The Greek Prime Minister estimated, in a speech before Parliament, that the coming days would be difficult, until Thursday, the day from which a drop in temperatures is expected. "Greece is at war against the fires," said Kyriakos Mitsotakis, according to remarks reported by Franceinfo.

Two pilots of a Canadair died on Tuesday, July 25, in the crash of their water bomber on the island of Euboea. The aircraft slammed into a hill seconds after dropping water on a flame. This terrible accident marks the first victims of this wave of fires.

Another victim was discovered in Greece on Tuesday (July 25th): the charred body of a man was found on the island of Euboea, a police spokeswoman said. “A police unit is going to the scene to check if it is a shepherd who has been missing since Sunday” when the forest fires broke out on the island, she said, according to reports. by TF1.

A 46-year-old man died on July 20 on the island of Euboea, this time from the heat. Medical staff recorded a "body temperature of 40 degrees" upon admission to the emergency room.

In total, nearly 67 outbreaks of fire are considered uncontrollable in Greece, the heat wave which affects the whole country favoring their spread. The results of the weekend do not encourage optimism since only twelve fires were stopped. Only the situation in Athens has improved.

"Around 8.5 million people are expected to experience temperatures above 41°C, while around 120,000 people will experience temperatures above 45°C.", according to the Greek Meteorological Institute's forecast for Wednesday, July 26 .

According to Greek public television, ERT, the past weekend was one of the "hottest recorded in July in the last fifty years." "Athens is going to have temperatures over 40°C for 6-7 days, until the end of July," said Panagiotis Giannopoulos, a Greek meteorologist with France 24.

In addition to Rhodes and Corfu, the island of Evia and the northern Peloponnese are also the scene of violent fires. Eight regions are currently on maximum fire vigilance: Attica, Central Greece, North Aegean, South Aegean, Thessaly, Peloponnese, Ionian Islands and Western Greece.

France has sent two Canadair reinforcements which have already carried out more than 130 airdrops. Italy, Turkey, Israel and Jordan are also supporting the Greek relief forces with the support of planes, helicopters and firefighters.

If the thousands of evacuated tourists welcome the prevention of the authorities who have decided to anticipate the evacuations, they are faced with a major problem: the Mediterranean country does not have the infrastructure to accommodate so many evacuees. The airports of the evacuated islands are marked by massive overcrowding, with people lying on the ground for endless hours waiting for a plane.

Holidaymakers sent to the mainland are placed on hold in gymnasiums and schools with delicate sanitary arrangements. Franceinfo spoke of "apocalyptic conditions".

Critics have nevertheless multiplied against the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Prime Minister of Greece, accused of not having increased prevention and the means to contain the fires more quickly. Efsyn, a left-leaning Greek daily, explained that "in four years, more than 200,000 hectares have been burned to the ground. This is the worst government record since 1981."

Part of Greek opinion was shocked to see military planes being used to transport police to Rhodes to speed up evacuations while, at the same time, firefighters as reinforcements were brought in by boat. Efsyn revealed that "volunteer firefighters, people from Rhodes Island", often operated alone in the woods, in very difficult conditions. "They were the ones who helped the sappers from other regions of Greece who did not know the terrain. There was no coordination in the operations."

"Every year we pay about 240 million for the protection of forests. Of these, about 80% go to extinction and only 20% to prevention", notes for his part a man quoted in a Greek newspaper, taken up by Franceinfo. Also pointed out is the lack of maintenance of forests, which makes them more vulnerable to fires, but also the lack of cooperation and communication between those responsible for managing fires.