May 25, 2022

villages are still burning at the gates of Athens

The furnace that has invaded the eastern Mediterranean basin continues to wreak havoc. In Greece and in several neighboring countries, such as Turkey, Italy or Bulgaria, a heatwave of historic magnitude favored the development of violent fires, which charred several tens of thousands of hectares in a little more than one week.

Between Thursday 5 and Friday 6 August, sixteen people were admitted to Greek hospitals, suffering from respiratory problems or minor burns, caused by fires near the capital and in several regions of the country. The firefighters, who were to receive reinforcements from French firefighters on Friday morning, fought a fire all night long 30 kilometers north of Athens. Five localities were evacuated and several houses burnt down, according to the authorities.

The Greek capital woke up again in a pungent smell, draped in the smoke of the fire, which resumed Thursday afternoon at the foot of Mount Parnes, after having burned more than 1,200 hectares since Tuesday.

The fire resumed Thursday, August 5, in the northern suburbs of Athens, near Kryoneri.
Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Turkey and Greece, a heatwave and fires of historic magnitude

“Our country is in an extremely critical situation”Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Thursday evening. The dozens of fires that still consume Greece show, according to him, “The reality of climate change”. “We are facing unprecedented conditions as several days of heatwave have turned the whole country into a powder keg”, he added in a televised address.

According to the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, 57 of the 99 fires counted on Thursday were still active in the evening, in particular on the island of Evia and in the Peloponnese, in the west and east of the country, where the situation remained worrying, Friday morning. “About ten people were hospitalized with respiratory problems at the Histiae dispensary, on the island of Euboea, including two firefighters”, said the Minister of Health, Vassilis Kikilias.

Nearly sixty villages were evacuated Thursday and then Friday morning in southern Greece. High winds, predicted by meteorologists across much of the country, could worsen the fires.

Cut roads

Firefighters fight the flames near Afidnes, north of the Greek capital, on August 5.

It was in the village of Afidnes, 30 kilometers north of Athens, that the flames fanned by the wind were the most virulent, noted in the night a photographer and a videographer from Agence France-Presse ( AFP). A firefighter and five residents suffered minor burns and were hospitalized Thursday evening, according to the Greek news agency ANA.

The motorway connecting Athens to the north of the country as well as the national road have been cut as a precaution. The fire teams tried to use the roadway as a barrier, to stop the advance of the flames before the return of the water bombers, at sunrise. But the blaze, fed by the surrounding pine forest, crossed the road in several places.

The flames consume a forest near the village of Afidnes, about 30 kilometers north of Athens.

At least 450 Greek firefighters intervened in this disaster, helped by air resources and land vehicles. Some 82 French firefighters – military and civilian – arrived Thursday evening from Marseille and were to intervene on Friday. Greek civil protection has announced that it is expecting two planes from France, around 100 firefighters and around 20 vehicles sent by Romania, as well as three helicopters from Switzerland, in addition to reinforcements offered by Cyprus and Sweden.

Israel will, for its part, send as soon as possible in a civilian plane fifteen firefighters and a large shipment of flame retardants, the Israeli authorities have announced. Due to the extreme danger, authorities have banned all movement or stay in Greece’s forests, national parks and Natura 2000 areas until August 9, according to civil protection.

Also listen Climate: before our eyes, the change

Le Monde with AFP and AP