Overnight rain in areas of Greece ravaged by forest fires helped “improve the situation” on Thursday, a local mayor said, but hundreds of firefighters were still struggling to contain further outbreaks.
Fires fueled by Greece’s most severe heat wave in decades – which authorities have blamed on climate change – have burned nearly 100,000 hectares in the past fortnight, killing three, hundreds homeless, thousands forced to evacuate and economic and environmental devastation in their wake up.
“The fire fronts are still active” on the island of Evia and in the Arcadia region of the Peloponnese peninsula and “fires are constantly breaking out” in the two areas, an official told AFP. firefighters.
And a new fire broke out Thursday morning in a wooded area of Aspropyrgos, 20 kilometers (12 miles) northwest of Athens.
After weeks of painful temperatures often well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), a drop of 33 degrees Celsius was forecast for Thursday.
Falling temperatures and night rains in Evia, the Peloponnese and central Greece have helped “to improve the situation,” said Stathis Koulis, the mayor of Gortynia.
The village of Gortynia, in a mountainous region of Arcadia 200 kilometers (120 miles) west of Athens, has become the main focus of the Peloponnese, with deep ravines posing a challenge to firefighters.
Twenty villages have been evacuated from the area in recent days and 680 firefighters, including more than a hundred sent to the aid of France, and five water-throwing planes are battling relentlessly against the flames.
The Greek firefighters were reinforced by more than 1,200 reinforcements from many countries, especially European, as well as vehicles and equipment.
In just eight days, 568 fires were recorded across Greece.
– ‘I can not stand it anymore’ –
Nearly 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland have burned since July 29 in the worst forest fires in Greece since 2007, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
“I can’t take it anymore,” Kostis Angelou said as he wandered between the corpses of his goats, the 372 of them burned by a fire that devoured the forests of Euboea.
The 44-year-old farmer managed to survive by spending hours under an irrigation pipe, surrounded by flames.
“A saint saved me,” he said.
The Mediterranean has been hit by a savage fire season, with Algeria announcing three days of national mourning starting Thursday for the 69 dead killed in the fires.
Italy has also been hit by fires and the island of Sicily recorded 48.8 degrees Celsius (119.8 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, which, if confirmed, would set a new European record, beating the previous one Greece record.
Eight people were killed in fires in southern Turkey earlier this month, while in the north the death toll rose to five on Thursday as flash floods swept across parts of the Black Sea.
The latest extreme weather events come after the publication on Monday of a ‘code red’ report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warning that the world is warming much faster than feared previously.
© 2021 AFP