Besieged villages, charred pine forests, destroyed homes: the Greek island of Euboea provided a spectacle of desolation as hundreds of firefighters and volunteers struggled to stem the frenzy of the most devastating fires ever to hit Greece.
Within eight days of the fire on this vast mountainous and forested island 200 kilometers from Athens, smoke had already been emitted from 49,700 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). Since July 29, flames have destroyed more than 93,700 hectares in this Mediterranean country, which was hit in early August by the worst heat wave in three decades. On average less than 2,300 hectares were burned during the same period between 2008 and 2020.
Announcing 586 fires
Facing a “natural disaster of unprecedented proportions”, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the launch of a global envelope of 500 million euros that includes emergency aid for the fire-victimized population, as well as a reconstruction plan for the stricken areas.
Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said that within a few days when the thermometer dramatically exceeded 40 degrees in many places, 586 fires broke out in the country. Ahead of the flames advancing, more than 3,000 people were evacuated by sea from the massive island of Epoya, the northern part of which caught fire on August 3, according to the Greek coast guard.
Reinforcements from all over Europe
If authorities deem it “much better” Tuesday, firefighters, with the help of several volunteers, are still battling to prevent the blaze from reaching Istiaia, a town of 7,000 that has not been evacuated.
Troops deployed in the northern part of Evia on Tuesday were reinforced and increased to 870 firefighters, many of them from Cyprus, Slovakia, Poland, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania, according to the Greek fire services. Seventeen water-bomber helicopters were mobilized, as well as eight aircraft, including three French Canadair.
“Organizer. Social media geek. General communicator. Bacon scholar. Proud pop culture trailblazer.”