A major wildfire was burning in Greece on Monday, with hot, dry and windy conditions hampering the efforts of hundreds of firefighters battling the blaze. Two fire has been burning for several days.
In Greece, authorities said the body of a man was recovered from a sheep-pen in an area in the central Viotia region under evacuation as a wildfire approached. Local media reported the man apparently died of smoke inhalation while trying to save his livestock.
Two firefighters were being treated in a hospital for injuries sustained in a separate fire in the northern Kavala region, the fire department said.
Gale-force winds were fanning the flames of dozens of wildfires in several parts of the country, with the northeast particularly hard-hit. Evacuation orders were issued for villages in the northern regions of Alexandroupolis, Komotini, Kavala and Orestiada, the central region of Viotia and the island of Evia, while fire departments across the country were placed on general alert.
The management of the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis ordered all staff and patients to evacuate it, as a precaution.
The coast guard said 20 people were evacuated by private boats from a fire on the island of Kythnos, while patrol boats and private vessels were on standby for other potential evacuations from fire areas in Viotia and Evia.
“The last 48 hours, unfortunately like the next 48 hours, are proving exceptionally critical due to the strong winds and high temperatures that are creating extensive fire fronts,” said Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vasilis Kikilias.
Since midnight, 53 fires had broken out across the country, including 14 in the northeastern Evros border region alone, he added. The government held an emergency meeting with the heads of the fire department, police, coast guard, armed forces and intelligence services.
The largest active wildfire was ravaging forests and farmland for a third day near the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis, where 13 villages were evacuated and several homes were destroyed over the weekend.
More than 200 firefighters, assisted by 17 water-dropping aircraft, volunteers and the armed forces were battling the fire, said Deputy Fire Chief Ioannis Artopios, a spokesman for the national fire service. Residents in Alexandroupolis were advised to keep their windows shut due to the smoke.
Fifty-six firefighters from Romania and two water-dropping aircraft from Cyprus were heading to Alexandroupolis, while 19 French firefighters were helping tackle the Evia fire.
Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer, which officials say have been exacerbated by climate change.
Greece’s deadliest wildfire killed 104 people in 2018, in a seaside resort near Athens that residents had not been warned to evacuate. Authorities have since erred on the side of caution, issuing swift mass evacuation orders whenever inhabited areas are under threat.
Last month, a wildfire on the resort island of Rhodes forced the evacuation of some 20,000 tourists . Days later, two air force pilots were killed when their water-dropping plane crashed while diving low to tackle a blaze on Evia. Another three wildfire-related deaths have been recorded this summer.