Two dead as Greece battles to contain wildfires

Published Aug 22, 2023


Alexandroupoli, Greece

On Tuesday, Greece battled to contain wildfires across the country that have killed two people and forced widespread evacuations in the second deadly wave of blazes in a month.

Flames spread unchecked in north-eastern Greece, as well as the islands of Evia and Kythnos and the region of Boeotia north of Athens, amid a dangerous mix of gale-force winds and temperatures of up to 41ºC.

“It’s a similar situation to July,” a fire department spokesperson said, referring to a wave in several parts of the country that left five people dead.

More than 60 fires had erupted in the past 24 hours, and six countries were sending help via the EU’s civil protection mechanism, the fire department said.

Some 120 firefighters from Cyprus, Romania, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany and Serbia will pitch in, fire department spokesperson Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told state TV ERT.

On Tuesday, a new fire broke out at a landfill in the industrial zone of Aspropyrgos near Athens, covering the area in a noxious black cloud.

Late on Monday, an evacuation was ordered at the hospital of Alexandroupolis, a north-eastern Greek port city located in an area where fires were raging for a fourth day.

The coastguard said it had moved 65 patients to a waiting ferry at the city harbour.

On the island of Evia, near the capital, officials late Monday evacuated the industrial town of Nea Artaki, where the fire has damaged poultry and pork farms.

The flames were also threatening the national park of Dadia, where the body of a man believed to be an undocumented migrant was found late on Monday.

An elderly shepherd had also been found dead in the Boeotia region earlier on Monday.

Dadia is one of the most important protected areas in Europe, offers an ideal habitat for rare birds and is home to the only breeding population of black vultures in the Balkans.

The Greek army said it was stepping up patrols in the area, which is also a frequent entry point for migrants.

The very hot and dry conditions which increase the fire risk will persist until Friday, according to meteorologists.

Amid a heat wave, a fire that started on July 18 and was fanned by strong winds ravaged almost 17 770 hectares (more than 43 000 acres) in 10 days in the south of Rhodes, a popular tourist island in the south-eastern Aegean Sea.

Around 20 000 people, mostly tourists, were evacuated.

Agence France-Presse