April 17, 2024 12:34 pm





Fires Ravage Greece as Heatwave Emerges, Forcing Urgent Evacuations

Greece orders evacuations as new wildfires break out during a punishing heatwave

Greece has ordered evacuations near two central cities as new wildfires break out during a devastating heatwave that has also engulfed other parts of the Mediterranean. Fires have erupted in Croatia and Italy, while extreme heat in Algeria has claimed the lives of 34 people. Central Greece is now under threat from new blazes, prompting locals to flee the industrial centre of Volos and the outskirts of Lamia.

Greek Deputy Governor Dorothea Kolindrini described the situation as “hell” with multiple fronts spanning 10 kilometres. In fact, Greece has faced over 600 fires in the past 12 days alone. The intense heatwave has been attributed to human-caused climate change by scientists from the World Weather Attribution group. Furthermore, the European Union’s climate observatory, Copernicus, has recorded the highest smoke emissions from wildfires in Greece in the past 21 years.

“Today is the most difficult day in terms of the heat, complicating the fight against existing fires and making new fire outbreaks more likely,” said Ioannis Artopios, spokesperson for the fire department.

The situation is expected to worsen as temperatures are forecasted to reach between 43-46 degrees Celsius in central and southern Greece. However, relief is on the horizon as storms are predicted for Thursday.

Longest Heatwave in Recent Years

Greece is accustomed to summer heatwaves but is currently experiencing one of the longest in recent years. The civil protection ministry has issued warnings of extreme fire danger in six of the country’s 13 regions. The fires have spread to popular tourist islands such as Rhodes, Corfu, and Evia.

  1. The EU has deployed over 490 firefighters and seven planes to assist Greece through its civil protection mechanism.
  2. At least 100 firefighters are working to contain the flames in Evia, where three lives have already been lost, including two pilots who lost their lives in a water bomber aircraft crash.
  3. Tens of thousands of people, including tourists, have been evacuated from fire-stricken areas in Greece.

Fires Across the Mediterranean

The heatwave in Greece is not unique to the country. Southern Europe and northern Africa have also been severely affected.

“Back home, there is nothing left and not even a sheep survived,” said Taous Timizar, a survivor of the wildfire in northeast Algeria.

In Italy, wildfires in Sicily forced the temporary closure of Palermo airport. In the north of the country, two people, including a 16-year-old girl, were killed by falling trees during violent storms.

Croatia is also battling wildfires near the picturesque city of Dubrovnik. Around 130 firefighters, along with water-bombing planes, are being deployed to contain the blaze. In a tragic twist, the fire has caused landmines from the 1990s conflict in Yugoslavia to explode in the area.

As the devastation continues across the Mediterranean, international assistance and measures are being taken to combat the fires and protect lives and ecosystems in the affected regions.

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