With EU air support, nearly 400 firefighters are working to extinguish a blaze on the Greek island of Evia. In France, more than 500 firefighters are battling a blaze that has destroyed 900 hectares of pine forest.
Backed by nearly 100 vehicles, nine helicopters and nine planes, including two from Italy and one from Spain, firefighters have managed to contain a blaze in a ravine near the village of Platana on the Greek island of Evia, where a wildfire is burning for a third day. The fire broke out Tuesday, prompting the evacuation of four villages, including Platana. The blaze has caused major damage to the 550-hectare (1,360-acre) wildlife habitat of Agrilitsa.
"The forest has been totally destroyed," local community head Dimitris Yiannoutsos told the web broadcaster TV Open.
Gale-force winds and temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (105 F) have fanned several wildfires in Greece since the weekend. On Wednesday, EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides called Greece's mobilization of forces "exemplary" after emergency crews managed to save inhabited areas.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who returned to Athens from vacation Tuesday, called for further EU assistance services. "Climate change is taking its toll on southern Europe and that is why it is imperative at European level to strengthen the EU rescue mechanism," Mitsotakis said Wednesday. He also paid tribute to the crews coping with an average of 50 forest blazes daily: "I am aware that our firefighters, particularly over the last five days, have given their all — they are without sleep and often without food."
In other Greek news, firefighters doused two blazes in Marathon Saturday and another in the Peloponnese on Sunday. On Monday, they brought a major blaze threatening homes in Peania, an eastern suburb of Athens, under control, but not before it had burned at least two houses and damaged radio broadcast equipment on nearby Mount Ymittos. On Tuesday, they contained other fires on the island of Thassos, the central region of Viotia, and in the Peloponnese region.
Five hundred firefighters are battling a blaze that began Wednesday in Aude, southeastern France. "About 900 hectares (2,200 acres) burned," commander Philippe Fabre from the Aude fire service told the news agency AFP. Overnight winds blowing gusts of 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph) had fanned the flames, he said, but they did not yet threaten homes.
Firefighters will work to stop the blaze from reaching nearby villages, Fabre said. They plan to drop water on the burning area after dampening down the edges of the forest overnight.
mkg/rt (Reuters, AFP, AP)