GOUVES, GREECE | Thousands of desperate residents on the blazing Greek island of Euboea watched the “living dead” on Sunday, the blazes that devastated their villages and lands, on the 12th day of a wave of wildfires in Greece and Turkey.
Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias declared that “the battle continues”, declaring “another difficult night” for Greeks and firefighters.
If most of the fires were under control, on Sunday in Turkey, the disaster on the island of Evia, the second largest island in Greece, remained the most worrying in this country.
“We have seen fires, but this situation is unheard of,” Nikos Papayano, a resident of Jovis, laments before evacuating his burning village.
In the grip of fires for six days, this land sandwiched between Attica and the Aegean Sea presented a harrowing panorama. Along the roads, its inhabitants sprayed their lands with water, while the densely wooded areas were engulfed by fire.
Greece and Turkey have been experiencing an exceptional heat wave for nearly two weeks. The fires, fueled by high temperatures, killed eight in Turkey and two in Greece and took dozens of people to hospital.
At the gates of Athens, the disaster that destroyed dozens of homes and businesses was quiet on Sunday, but “the risk of its re-emergence is great,” Mr Hardalias warned.
On Sunday, a helicopter was sent to lift an injured firefighter from the forest north of the Greek capital, where he was fighting a resumed shooting.
On the Ionian island of Zante, where a small fire broke out, a hydrofoil plane crashed in action without causing any injuries, according to firefighters.
On both sides of the Aegean, firefighters were battling blazes in Turkey’s Mugla region and in the Greek Peloponnese peninsula, where the situation stabilized on Sunday.
How long will this drama last?
But the main nightmare of the Greek authorities remains the large mountain island of Epoya, where its villages have been reduced to ashes and dense pine forests are set ablaze.
How long will this drama last? Former Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras tweeted. “Northern Evia has been in flames for six days. The local authorities and their residents are screaming that they are alone in despair, denouncing, like many, the lack of air and ground resources,” the leader of the left-wing opposition added.
“The forces are not enough” and “the situation is critical,” Giorgos Kilatzidis, the vice-governor of Euboea, attacked.
According to him, at least 35 thousand hectares and hundreds of houses were burned.
The Greek government assures us, however, that “the land and air forces are fighting a great battle without interruption.” Mr Hardelis said air assets were facing “serious difficulties” due to turbulence, thick smoke and limited visibility.
The AFP team found that despite the rugged terrain, nearly 500 firefighters continued their fierce battle against the flames in the north of the island, blazing from east to west, amid a thick cloud of black and orange smoke.
Among them are about 200 firefighters from Ukraine and Romania, reinforced with seventeen water launchers and a helicopter, according to the Greek fire services.
France, which has already sent three Canadians and 80 firefighters to the site north of Athens, on Sunday announced the dispatch of additional resources.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked all these countries. “On behalf of the Greek people, I would like to express our sincere gratitude to all countries that have sent aid,” he wrote on Twitter. We thank you for standing with Greece in these difficult times.
Left in God’s Hands
Its length is estimated at thirty kilometers. “The front is very big. We are trying to save the village, but the means are not enough,” said Nikos Papayano, a resident of Jovis. “It’s dramatic. We will all end up at sea.”
About 2,000 residents of the island were evacuated by boat and taken to hotels.
In Euboea, “40,000 people will live as dead in the coming years due to the destruction of the area,” Open TV channel Iraklis, who lives in Istiaia, expressed her desperation.
Yiannis Slimis, a Jovis resident, also believes that “there will be no more work in the next 40 years”.
In the village where many live on their land, the young man believes that “the state is absent. If the people leave, the villages will burn down.” […] We are left in the hands of God.”
A spokesman for Syriza, the main opposition party, Nassos Eliopoulos, denounced that “Northern Evia is almost wiped off the map”. “It is tragic to see so many fires out of control for days,” he said, and saw “serious responsibilities.”
More than 70,000 hectares of smoke have escaped so far this year in Greece, including 56,000 hectares in the past 10 days, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS). The fires destroyed about 1,700 hectares, on average, during those 10 summer days between 2008 and 2020.
Seaplane crashes while operating in Greece, no injuries
Athens | We learned from Greek firefighters that a sea-bomber crashed Sunday afternoon, it is in service on the Greek island of Zante, and its pilot is safe.
The Pitzitel plane was carrying out an operation to put out a small fire on the Ionian island, west of the Greek mainland, when it crashed for some reason, according to the same source.
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