Greece is still burning, Turkey helped by rain

A hill devastated by a fire at Thracomacadons, near Mount Parnes, north of Athens (Greece) on August 7, 2021

Fierce fires continued to devour thousands of hectares of forests in Greece on Saturday, according to the Greek prime minister, breaking the record for areas burned on the 11th day of this “nightmare heat”, while the situation seemed stable in neighboring Turkey. .

“It is a disgusting disaster. I am afraid that only my great-grandchildren will get a chance to walk this earth again. This is a huge disaster,” said Tasos Tsilivakos, a retired by AFP in Pefkophyto, north of Athens, with a sob.

About thirty km from the Greek capital, the violent disaster proceeded rapidly to the east and followed the evacuation of a dozen areas, the largest water reservoir in the capital, Lake Marathon. Its thick smoke and pungent smell once again attacked the capital.

In the village of Pefkofyto, whose name means “pine forest” in Greek, only burnt pine and carcasses of houses remain. The fire left only a spectacle of desolation.

“We saw our house burning on TV. My baby is still crying because he is so shocked,” a 60-year-old man from the neighboring town of Agios Stefanos testified on Alpha TV.

“When this terrible summer is over, we will repair all the damage,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised at the Athens fire department on Saturday morning. He resolved to rebuild the burned areas “as quickly as possible”.

President Emmanuel Macron tweeted to him on Saturday that “France stands with Greece, in the grip of violent fire.” Paris sent 3 Canadians and 80 firefighters to the north of Athens since Thursday.

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Also helped by reinforcements from Cyprus, Croatia, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine, at least 1,450 Greek firefighters continued their fierce fighting on Saturday against five major fires north of Athens, on the island of Evia and on the Peloponnese peninsula.

Fifty active fires were counted on Saturday in Greece, where more than 56,000 hectares have been destroyed in the past ten days, according to the European Information System on Forest Fires (EFFIS). An average of about 1,700 hectares was burned in the same period between 2008 and 2020.

– future rain –

On the other hand, the situation seemed to be stabilizing along the Turkish coast, where 13 out of 200 fires in the previous day remained active on Saturday.

Possible rains in south-western Turkey have helped improve the situation in the Antalya region. According to local officials, the fire has now been brought under control, including at Manavghat, where it continued to rain on Saturday as well.

According to the municipality, Turkish firefighters enlisted the help of several volunteers, however, continued their efforts in the Mugla area, where three neighborhoods were evacuated.

On both sides of the Aegean Sea, hundreds of homes were destroyed by the scorching heat as the flames rose again.

As the situation worsened on the Greek island of Evia on Saturday, more than 1,300 people were evacuated overnight by boat from the fire-ravaged coastal village of Limni. More than twenty others were evacuated Saturday morning from Roviz beach, also on this vast island 200km east of Athens.

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“More than 300 families whose only home was destroyed by the fire do not know where to stay and have been moved to hotels,” the region’s governor, Fanis Spanos, said. “The numbers are staggering,” he told the Greek news agency ANA.

The Greek Interior Ministry has pledged 1.5 million euros of emergency aid to the affected areas.

Even on the Peloponnese peninsula, fires were still raging in the hills east of the archaeological site of Olympia and in the areas of Mani and Mesnia.

In East Mani “the fire burned more than 15 villages”, Mayor Eleni Dracoulaco told ERT TV. More than 5,000 residents and tourists were forced to flee the disaster, which they estimate burned 50% of this hill and tourist area.

– Record of burned areas –

According to EFFIS data, as of August 7, the area burned in 2021 in Greece exceeded 70,000 hectares against an average of 8,800 hectares in the period 2008-2020.

A preliminary UN report, which AFP had access to, qualifies the Mediterranean region as a “climate change hot spot”.

Eight people were killed and dozens were hospitalized in 200 fires that raged in southern Turkey for a week. Two deaths are to be condemned in Greece, as well as around twenty injured, including two volunteer firefighters hospitalized in critical condition.

Greece and Turkey are undergoing an extraordinary heatwave, with the mercury oscillating between 40 and 45 degrees, which experts clearly link to climate change.

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