Thousands of people fled uncontrolled wildfires in Greece and Turkey on Friday as the continued heat waves turned forests into powder boxes, and flames threatened densely populated areas, power facilities and historical sites.

On the Greek island of Evia, the Coast Guard launched a major operation to evacuate hundreds of people at sea, using patrol boats, fishing boats and private boats to rescue residents and holidaymakers from the night and Friday fires.

Dozens of villages and communities in the southern Peloponnes Peninsula and north of the Greek capital Athens were emptied as fires spread in the pine forest.

Sotiris Danikas, head of the coast guard of Edipsos Town on the island of Evia, told the national broadcaster ERT when describing the maritime evacuation: “We are talking about the end of the world, I don’t know how to describe it. it.”

Coast Guard spokesperson Nikos Kokkalas told ERT that 653 people have been evacuated from the beach in northeastern Evia after the fire cut off all other means of escape.

Historical heat wave

Due to the prolonged heat wave, the temperature in Greece soared to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), and fires broke out in many parts of the country.

Although temperatures in many areas fell below 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) for the first time in nearly 10 days on Friday, strong winds are expected in most parts of the country in the afternoon, and the weather may further hinder firefighting efforts.

“We are experiencing the 10th day of a major heat wave affecting our entire country. This is the most intense and lasting heat wave in the past 30 years,” Fire Department Brigadier General Aristotelis Papadopoulos (Aristotelis Papadopoulos) Say.

Thousands of people fled their homes or holiday houses, and at least 20 people, including four firefighters, were injured and treated.

The Ministry of Health stated that two of the firefighters were in intensive care in Athens, and the other two were hospitalized with mild burns.

More than 1,000 firefighters and nearly 20 aircraft are now fighting major fires across Greece. Several European countries are sending or have sent firefighters, aircraft, helicopters and vehicles to help.

Fire rages in Turkey

At the same time, in neighboring Turkey, what is described as the worst wildfire in decades has swept across large areas of the southern coast in the past 10 days, killing 8 people.

On Friday, the authorities evacuated six other communities near the town of Milas in Mugla Province because wildfires caused by strong winds raged about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the power plant.

Officials say that at least 36,000 people have been evacuated to safety in Mugla Province alone.

At the same time, several excavators cleared small strips of land and formed fire belts to prevent the flames from spreading to the Yenikoy factory, which is the second such facility in the area to be threatened by wildfires.

In Turkey, what is described as the worst wildfire in decades has swept across large areas of the southern coast in the past 10 days, killing 8 people [Emre Tazegul/AP]

On Wednesday, a fire spread to the compound of the coal-fueled Kemerkoy power plant, forcing nearby residents to flee in navy ships and cars.

It was brought under control on Thursday after raging for about 11 hours. Officials said the main equipment of the plant was not damaged.

Officials said that wildfires near the Marmaris resort, also located in Mugla Province, were basically under control late Thursday, while at least two fires in Antalya Province, another beach resort, were still burning.

‘Nothing left’

In Greece, firefighters went door-to-door in an area about 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) north of Athens, demanding people to evacuate, while helicopters sprinkled water on towering flames and smoke enveloped the area.

Authorities sent push alerts to cell phones in the area, urging residents to evacuate.

The continuing outbreak threatening residential areas hindered the work of hundreds of firefighters there.

On Thursday, the fire interrupted traffic on the country’s main highway connecting Athens and northern Greece and damaged electrical facilities, causing the distribution company to warn of possible rolling blackouts.

In the Drosopigi area, resident Giorgos Hatzispiros inspected his home for damage on Friday morning. This was the first time he saw it after being ordered to evacuate the previous afternoon.

Only the charred walls of the single-storey house and his children’s bicycles were left unscathed in the storage room for some reason. Inside, smoke rose from a bookcase that was still smoldering.

“Nothing is left,” Hatzispiros said. He urged his mother to leave, lest she see their destroyed home.

‘The reality of climate change’

In southern Greece, nearly 60 villages and settlements were evacuated on Thursday and early Friday.

In addition to Evia, fires broke out in many places in the southern Peloponnese. The fires were extinguished before reaching the monument in Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.

A Summer Palace on the outskirts of Athens, once used by the former Greek royal family, also survived.

The fire also disrupted COVID-19 vaccination. The Ministry of Health announced the suspension of vaccination at centers in fire-affected areas and stated that appointments can be rescheduled if conditions permit.

Experts warn that climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires in the Mediterranean [Costas Baltas/Reuters]

“Our first priority is always to protect human life, followed by the protection of property, the natural environment and critical infrastructure. Unfortunately, in this case, it is impossible to achieve all these goals at the same time,” Prime Minister Kyriacos. Mizotakis said in a televised speech on Thursday night.

He said that wildfires showed “the reality of climate change.”

In 2018, a rapidly spreading forest fire engulfed a seaside settlement east of Athens, killing more than 100 people. Some of them drowned after trying to escape from the suffocating smoke and flames after being trapped on the beach.


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