Sunday, 13 October, 2019

Ecological disaster on Greek island as fire burns on

A major forest fire that threatened homes in Peania an eastern suburb of Athens was brought under control on Monday Watch | Wildfire rages on Greek island of Evia, smoke reaches Athens
Patty Aguilar | 17 August, 2019, 19:34

Fanned by strong winds, the flames threatened villages some 80 kilometers northeast of Athens, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents on Tuesday.

The six planes and five helicopters are concentrating on areas where access to the island's dense pine forest, which includes canyons, is hard by land.

A total of 796 firefighters were deployed to tackle a total of 56 wildfires recorded across the country on Tuesday, the Fire Service said.

"The situation in Evia was very hard and remains hard", Christos Stylianides, the European Union's aid commissioner, said after meeting Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

An Italian water bomber was expected to join the fray later in the day after Greece requested European Union assistance.

Live from the Greek island of Evia, as massive wildfires rage.

"Regarding the next days, there will be a thorough study on how exactly we should proceed for environmental restoration", Nikolaos Ditoras, coordinator of the regional administration of Thessaly and Central Greece, told Xinhua. A second Italian plane and two more from Spain were due to arrive by the evening.

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"We are more optimistic today because the winds have died down", Yiorgos Kostopoulos, civil protection supervisor for Evia, told ERT television.

Two more fires were doused on Saturday in Marathon, close to Mati, the coastal resort where 102 people died past year in Greece's worst fire disaster to date. Water-dropping planes and helicopters have continued flights over the wildfire burning through a protected nature reserve.

Almost 400 firefighters, 11 helicopters and 13 planes - including two from Italy and one from Spain sent in following Greece's request for help - fought the blaze which broke out hours before dawn on Tuesday and has ravaged a nature reserve.

The area has been declared a state of emergency. Mitsotakis later headed to the area of the fire to meet with firefighters. "The conditions today are exceptionally hard, and the primary concern of the state is and will be the protection of lives and by extension of property", Mitsotakis said.

Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summer months.

Gale-force winds and temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (105 F) have fanned several wildfires in Greece since the weekend. The public have been repeatedly encouraged not to engage in outdoor activities that could cause fires by Greek authorities. Parks and forest areas are closed to the public at times of high fire risk. The fire trapped people in their cars as they attempted to flee, while many other victims drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches overcome by heat and choking smoke.

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