Greece experiences the worst fires recorded in Europe in years

The fires do not give truce to Greece.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
26 August 2023 Saturday 04:25
9 Reads
Greece experiences the worst fires recorded in Europe in years

The fires do not give truce to Greece. Yesterday, the country continued to burn for the eighth consecutive day, in what, according to the EU's Copernicus program satellite mapping service, are already the worst fires in Europe on record. "We must continue to strengthen national and collective prevention efforts in the face of more brutal fire seasons," asked the European crisis management commissioner, Janez Lenarcic, in a message on the X social network, the former Twitter.

After several Greek islands burned at the start of the season, causing the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists, since Friday of last week Greek firefighters have been fighting more than 500 declared fires around the country. Yesterday, although the situation was improving, three main fronts continued to worry the authorities: the one around the Parnes national park, some 40 km north of Athens, and the Boeotia and Evros regions, on the border with Turkey. In total, so far this year the fire has burned the equivalent of 1.09% of the country's surface, a percentage much higher than the 0.33% average during the period between 2006 and 2022. Hundreds people have had to leave their homes. As firefighters began to contain the damage on Saturday, six more fires started southwest of Athens caused by a lightning storm. The same thing happened on the island of Andros, where lightning caused a fire that spread rapidly due to strong winds. The authorities hope that with the rains and the drop in temperatures that are expected for this week the situation will be mitigated.

"Greece is experiencing its most difficult year in terms of weather conditions since we have weather records," government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said this week. "It is the combination of high temperatures, drought and winds that unfortunately create the ideal conditions for fires with extreme behavior," he said.

However, in addition to the effects caused by climate change, there are also some arsonists behind the fires. A total of 79 people have been arrested on suspicion of setting fires. Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias reported on Thursday several new attempts to start new fires northwest of Athens, which he accused of committing a "crime against the country." “You won't get away with it. We will find you, you will be held accountable, ”he promised.

Especially painful is the fire that is raging in the Evros River region, where, according to Copernicus, the fire has already swept away more than 73,000 hectares. It was there that on Tuesday they found the bodies of at least 18 charred migrants, including two children, who were surely trying to cross this border river between Turkey and Greece to reach Europe. Another body was found in the area near Alexandroupolis, which is also believed to be that of a person attempting to follow this route. In addition, a shepherd lost his life in the Boeotia region. In total, since last Saturday 21 people have died due to the fires.

In Evros, of all the hectares burned in the last seven days, 13,000 of them are located in another national park, that of Dadia, which last year already suffered a strong fire that devastated 5,000 hectares.

The Supreme Court of Greece is now investigating whether there may have been an organized plan to set the Evros fire and above all the alarming hate speech against the migrants and the unfounded accusations that they have started certain fires. This phenomenon has grown after a group of thirteen Pakistanis and Syrians were accused of being caught red-handed while trying to light a fire near the city of Alexandroupoli. In a video on Facebook, a resident showed them, as if it were hunting loot, trapped in a trailer, assuring that they had tried to burn them. "Don't show them, burn them!" Commented another user on the networks. This 45-year-old man, baptized as the sheriff of Evros by the Greek media, has already been arrested along with two other collaborators.

Racism against migrants who often take this route to avoid crossing the sea has long agitated this border region. Christos Paschalakis, a resident of Evros, told the Afp news agency that he was "absolutely convinced that the fires were caused by migrants." “They burn us, they rob us, they kill us in traffic accidents,” he indicated, alluding to the sentiment of some locals who accuse human traffickers of causing risks on the roads through their reckless driving. Calls to capture migrants are multiplying even on Greek social networks.

The issue has reached the political arena after a deputy from the Greek Solution, an ultra-right party that entered Parliament in the last elections – with broad support in this region – accused the migrants of making the work of planes difficult. of the firemen. The leader of this party, Kyriakos Velopoulos, joined the attacks and applauded the man arrested for illegally capturing them.