Greece wildfires:Thousands flee island of Evia as blazes continue to ravage lands | News | DW | 07.08.2021

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Greece wildfires:Thousands flee island of Evia as blazes continue to ravage lands

While progress was made in batting blazes near Athens, the island of Evia is still in the grips of uncontrolled fires.

Flames rise as a wildfire burns in the village of Limni, on the island of Evia, Greece

Uncontrolled fires are continuing to wreak havoc on Evia, the second largest island in Greece

Thousands have fled their homes on the Greek Island of Evia as wildfires continued to rage uncontrolled on Sunday for a sixth day.

While fires that had posed a risk to the northern suburbs of Athens in the last few days appeared to have died back, the inferno in Evia quickly spread into several fronts and ripped through thousands of hectares of forest land.

Ferries were seen on standby for more evacuations after taking numerous residents of the island to safety by sea.

On Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis spoke at a breifing at the Fire Brigade’s Athens heaquarters where he expressed his gratitude to the personnel of the Fire Brigade, the Hellenic Coast Guard, the police and the volunteers who have been battling the fires across the country.

"The situation is slightly better than what it was on Friday," he said, the Athens-Macedonian News Agency news agency reported.

Mitsotakis added that efforts must continue "with great intensity to contain all fires and prevent any further rekindling."

The Prime Minister said he wanted to "assure anew all those afflicted by the fires that their recovery will be my first political priority."

What help is Germany offering?

The German government is preparing to send firefighters and emergency vehicles to Greece to help battle the fires, news agency dpa reported.

An Interior Ministry spokesperson confirmed that firefighters are preparing to "move quickly" to reinforce local teams on the ground.

Some 216 firefighters and 44 firefighting vehicles from Germany will be sent to the affected areas in Greece. An advance team will fly out as early as Sunday to Athens to assess the situation on the ground.

A map of wildfires burning in southern Europe

Germany has also offered to send helicopters to assist with firefighting efforts, although Greece has yet to request their use, dpa reported.

The German government faced pushback from opposition lawmakers for not sending firefighting crews sooner.

Switzerland, Sweden, France, Croatia and Egypt have already sent firefighting airplanes and helicopters to Greece.

Israel, Romania, Cyprus and Ukraine have also already sent firefighters to back up Greek emergency crews.

Watch video 02:45

Battle to save homes near Athens rages on

What's the latest on the fire situation?

Firefighters are currently battling at least 55 active fires, Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said on Saturday afternoon.

The blazes outside the Greek capital Athens were partially brought under control overnight, with Hardalias expecting the fire to be contained by the end of Saturday — unless the winds pick up again.

People are evacuated on a ferry as a wildfire burns in the village of Limni, on the island of Evia, Greece

Hundreds of people on the island of Evia were picked up by ferry boats in a dramatic overnight rescue

"Last night was really hell, a nightmare. We have made tremendous efforts to prevent the fire from spreading to inhabited areas," Nikos Peppas, deputy governor of the Attica region, told Skai TV about the Athens fires.

While the situation improved in Athens, uncontrolled fires continue to rage in northern Evia, Greece's second-largest island, as well as portions of the Peloponnese peninsula.

The blazes have prompted more mass evacuations. Overnight on Friday, some 1,400 people were rescued by ferry boats from the beaches on the island of Evia.

In the Mani region of the Peloponnese, one official said the fires have destroyed around 70% of her town.

"It's a biblical catastrophe. We're talking about three-quarters of the municipality,'' East Mani Deputy Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT.

Devastation across Greece

Over 100 wildfires have broken out across Greece over the past few days alone, according to the Associated Press.

While many have been quickly contained, dozens of others quickly spread — fanned by scorching temperatures caused by a heatwave and strong winds.

A damaged table and burned out car are pictured on a property north of Athens following wildfires in the area

The wildfires north of Athens have forced thousands of people to leave their homes

At least 60,000 hectares (600 square kilometers, 232 square miles) of land have been burned so far, ERT reported, citing data from the Athens National Observatory.

At least one volunteer firefighter has died battling the fires, while another 20 are being treated for injuries in hospitals.

During a visit to the Athens fire department headquarters on Saturday, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed "deep sadness" over the situation.

"When this nightmarish summer has passed, we will turn all our attention to repairing the damage as fast as possible, and in restoring our natural environment again,'' Mitsotakis said.

Greece, Italy, Turkey and other parts of southern Europe are currently battling a surge of wildfires, with experts saying climate change is to blame.

rs/csb (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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