A fierce wildfire raged on its 11th day in northeastern Greece despite the relentless efforts of countless firefighters and aerial support from Greece and multiple European Union countries.
This wildfire, centered in the Alexandroupolis and Evros areas, has predominantly taken over a forest near the Turkey border, making it challenging for accessibility.
Tragically, this inferno has been responsible for 20 out of 21 wildfire-related fatalities in Greece in the past week. It has been recorded as the most extensive wildfire in the EU since the European Forest Fire Information System began its documentation in 2000.
Currently, 475 firefighters are being aided by six planes, four helicopters, and a support fleet of 100 vehicles. Simultaneously, another 260 firefighters are addressing a significant flare-up on the southern side of Mount Parnitha, near the outskirts of Athens.
The root cause of these catastrophic fires is under investigation. They have led to the devastation of extensive forest areas, damage to residences, and evacuations of thousands in the past week.
A recent government session in Athens, led by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, focused on restoring the affected forests in Evros and Parnitha. The action plan involves earmarking the damaged areas for reforestation, implementing flood prevention measures for the upcoming months, and ensuring food and water supply for the surviving wildlife in the affected regions.
Given the demanding situation, Greece has sought aid from fellow European nations. They have received assistance in the form of 12 aircraft and many firefighters from across Europe. Additional aircraft are en route from France and Spain, augmenting the support from Sweden, Germany, Cyprus, Croatia, and the Czech Republic, facilitated by the EU’s emergency mechanism.
Additionally, a team of over 350 firefighters from countries including France, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Albania, and Serbia have been dispatched to Greece.
Janez Lenarcic, the EU’s top official for crisis management, emphasized on Tuesday that this marked the EU’s most extensive aerial firefighting mission, exemplifying their unwavering dedication to timely and effective collaborative efforts during emergencies.
EU’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service reported that since its outbreak on August 19, the Alexandroupolis and Evros wildfire had ravaged approximately 200,000 acres of land. This data is facilitated by satellite imagery from Copernicus, the Earth observation division of the EU space program.
As per the latest update, firefighters across Greece are grappling with 87 active wildfires, with 44 igniting in the short span from Monday to Tuesday evening.
Suspicions of arson have emerged, with numerous individuals detained concerning the fires. Greece implemented strict wildfire prevention measures between May and October, restricting actions that may escalate fire risks.
To date, 163 individuals have been detained on charges related to fires since the onset of the wildfire prevention period this year, including 118 due to negligence and 24 for intentional arson. Additionally, the police reported 18 more arrests.