| 28 February 2024, Wednesday |

Greece wildfire scorches area bigger than New York City

A wildfire that has been burning in northeastern Greece for 11 days has destroyed an area greater than New York City, according to the European Union-backed Copernicus Climate Change Service.

The fire originated near the city of Alexandroupolis and swiftly spread across the Evros area, killing at least 20 people last week in Europe’s deadliest conflagration this summer, fueled by gale force winds and hot heat. It burnt vast swaths of beautiful flora and devastated houses and livelihoods.

In a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service said the fire had ravaged at least 808.7 square kilometres (312.2 square miles). New York City takes up 778.2 square kilometres (300.5 square miles).

Copernicus said last week that the fire was the largest on European soil in years.

All but one of the dead are presumed to have been irregular migrants who crossed over from Turkey, evading police in the forest. Authorities fear more bodies may be found when the flames are put out, as Evros is a popular crossing into the EU for thousands of migrants and refugees each year.

Aircraft and hundreds of firefighters on the ground, including from Serbia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Albania were battling the flames, the fire brigade said.

Authorities warned that risks from the fire remained high on Tuesday.

Summer wildfires are common in Greece but the government says extreme weather conditions which scientists link to climate change have made them worse this year. Greece’s deadliest fire on record killed 104 people outside Athens in 2018.

  • Reuters