Greek firefighters, supported by aircraft, are battling a wildfire spreading outside Athens. This fire is one of many that have devastated the country, resulting in the deaths of 20 people this week.
Since the fires first broke out in northern Greece on Saturday, hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes. The hot weather and strong winds have fueled these fires, creating the second major summer outbreak.
According to Minister Vassilis Kikilias, there have been 355 wildfires since Friday, with 209 occurring in the past 48 hours. Firefighting teams are working tirelessly to control the situation, but the fire brigade has warned that more fires could start as conditions remain brutal and extreme in some areas.
Approximately 20 kilometers north of Athens, over 200 firefighters, volunteers, 65 vehicles, and 15 aircraft (some from Sweden and Germany) are battling a fire that started near the village of Fyli and is spreading toward Menidi. The capital city has been affected by smoke and ash since the fire broke out on Tuesday.
As a result of the fire, around 150 individuals from three nursing homes in Menidi have been evacuated to hotels or other care facilities. Police have also ordered residents to leave their homes, with a helicopter dropping water on the flames.
Amid the chaos, a volunteer rescued an icon of the Virgin Mary from a burning monastery while police officers worked to remove large gas canisters from the premises.
Further away, in the northern region of Evros bordering Turkey, a fire has been burning for five days. On Tuesday, rescuers discovered 18 burned bodies near Dadia forest, believed to be migrants attempting to enter the European Union. Hospital patients were evacuated onto a ferry in the nearby port city of Alexandroupolis.
State television broadcasted a satellite image showing that smoke from the Evros fires had drifted across the country to the Ionian islands in the northwest, close to Italy.
While summer wildfires are common in Greece, this year’s fires have been exacerbated by unusually hot, dry, and windy weather, which scientists attribute to climate change. Minister Kikilias described this summer as the worst on record since meteorological data began to be collected.
In July, tens of thousands of foreign tourists were evacuated from the island of Rhodes, where a fire burned for a week, destroying hotels, resorts, and large areas of land.
The Chief of the Fire Department, Georgios Pournaras, stated that these extreme conditions were unprecedented in his 32 years of service.