| 18 May 2024, Saturday |

New fires force evacuation of Greek villages

Residents were forced to evacuate several villages around Athens, as Greek firefighters struggled to control two new blazes that broke in that area.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has linked the devastating fires to the “climate crisis”, speaking last week as wildfires swept across the Mediterranean, engulfing parts of Greece, Italy and Spain.

Scores of firefighters battled new blazes near the Greek port city of Lavrio, south-east of Athens, as helicopters and planes bombed the flames with water.

Locals from three nearby villages were ordered to move to safety. Authorities said the fire had reached several houses, but the extent of the damage was unclear.

The sky in Athens was again covered in smoke.

“The fire front is large and the winds in the area are very strong,” Thanasis Avgerinos, deputy governor of East Attica region, told AFP. “This is a very flammable pine-covered area.”

Firefighters are battling to keep the flames away from a national park in the Sounion area, as it will then be extremely difficult to control the blaze.

Meanwhile, another fire broke out in Vilia, Attica, about 60 kilometres north-west of Athens.

Authorities have called for the evacuation of at least four nearby villages, while another 40 firefighters were battling the blazes, an official said.

Fires in recent weeks have destroyed homes, property, pine forests, wildlife and livestock across more than 1,000 square kilometres of land.

The island of Evia, 200km north-east of Athens, has paid the heaviest price with more than half of its land burnt.

The Peloponnese peninsula, 200km west of Athens, and the northern suburbs of the capital were also heavily affected by about 600 fires, which were finally brought under control on Friday.

Mr Mitsotakis said the fires offered a dire warning: “The climate crisis tells us everything must change.”

As global temperatures rise, heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and intense, and their effects more widespread, scientists say.

Meanwhile, deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias, who has been co-ordinating the firefighting, suffered an “ischaemic episode” and underwent a successful heart operation, a hospital said on Monday afternoon.

Mr Hardalias, 52, will remain at the cardiological clinic for monitoring, it said.

Secretary General for Civil Protection, Vassilios Papageorgiou, will step in until Mr Hardalias recuperates, the Greek Civil Protection department said.

  • The National News