Hundreds of Greek firefighters battled wildfires on the island of Iowa on Sunday, burning large areas of cedar forests, destroying homes and forcing tourists and locals to flee. ۔
“We have another difficult evening, another difficult night,” Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Sunday.
“We have two large firefighters on Eva, one in the north and the other in the south. In the north, one wind blows to the coastal settlements,” he added.
He added that 17 firefighting planes – planes and helicopters – were fighting the fire on Eva.
Avia is located just northeast of the capital Athens. To the southwest is the Peloponnese area, where Hardalias said the situation is stable. He added that a fire in a northern suburb of Athens had been contained.
“The situation in Attica (which covers Athens) is better but we are afraid of an outbreak,” Herdalias said.
Rescuers on Sunday dispatched a wounded firefighter by helicopter from the densely forested Mount Parnitha, just north of Athens, where he was battling a blaze.
Greece and Turkey have been battling a devastating fire for nearly two weeks as the region faces its worst heatwave in decades, linked by experts to climate change.
So far, the fires have killed two people in Greece and eight in neighboring Turkey, with dozens more hospitalized.
Although the rains took some time off from the fires in Turkey over the weekend, Greece is tolerating rising temperatures.
The rugged landscaping on Eva and the dense pine forests that appeal to tourists have turned into a nightmare for firefighters. A fire on Greece’s second-largest island has reduced thousands of hectares of land to ashes and destroyed homes.
Authorities continue to evacuate residents from Avia, with another 349 people evacuated Sunday morning, the Greek Coast Guard said.
On the shores of Pefky, young people struggled across the sand, using chairs to transport mainly the elderly and the disabled on the ferry.
About 260 Greek firefighters were fighting the fire on Eva with 66 vehicles, with 200 vehicles from Ukraine and Romania providing 23 vehicles and air support.
A fire service official told the Elftheros Typos newspaper that the heat from the fires in Ivaya and elsewhere was so intense that “the plane falling from the hoses and water was turning to steam.”
Local authorities were criticizing efforts to contain the fire, which erupted on the island on August 3.
“I have no voice left to ask for more planes. I can’t stand this situation,” Giorgos Sporunetis, mayor of Mantodi in Aurea, told Sky TV on Saturday.
He added that many villages were saved only because the youth ignored evacuation orders and kept the fire away from their homes.
“We are in God’s hands,” said Jens Slamis, a 26-year-old villager from Gauss, north of the island.
“The state is absent. If people leave, the villages will definitely burn,” he told AFP.
“We will have no jobs for the next 40 years and in the winter we will be flooded without the forests that were protecting us,” he added.
Speaking critically on Sunday, Herdlias said the direction of the smoke and wind and the resulting poor exposure had hampered the work of the watercraft.
But Nassus Aleppolos, a spokesman for the main opposition Syriza party, said many fires in Greece had been out of control for days without strong winds. Someone has to take responsibility for the “really tragic” catastrophe, he said.
Earlier this weekend, Herdlias said 2,000 people evacuated from the island had been given temporary shelter.
In the last 10 days alone, 56,655 hectares (140,000 acres) have been burned in Greece, according to the European Forest Fire Information System. The average number of hectares burned in the same period between 2008 and 2020 was 1,700 hectares.
Britain, France, Spain and other countries have responded to Greece’s appeal for help, with Serbia announcing on Sunday that it was sending 13 vehicles with 37 firefighters and three firefighting helicopters.
Meanwhile, Greek authorities are on high alert to seize more weapons.
Firefighters arrested three teenagers, aged 16 to 21, in the port city of Piraeus, near Athens, on Sunday morning on charges of attempting to set fire to nearby Parama.
And Athens police said Sunday they have arrested a foreigner in an Athens park for trying to burn napkins at the root of a tree.
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