Pefkofyto, Greece

Violent forest fires continued to devour thousands of hectares in Greece yesterday, breaking records for areas burned for the eleventh day in a row, while, in neighboring Turkey, the fire seemed to subside.

“It is an abominable disaster. I am afraid that only my great-grandchildren will have the opportunity to walk in these lands again, ”said Tasos Tsilivakos, a retiree from Pefkofyto, north of Athens, sobbing.

About thirty kilometers from the Greek capital, the fire continued to advance vigorously to the east and Lake Marathon, the capital’s largest water reserve, once again invaded by thick smoke and a pungent smell.

In the village of Pefkofyto, whose name means “pine forest” in Greek, only charred pine trees and the foundations of houses remain. The fire has left nothing but a spectacle of desolation.

“We watched our house burn on television. My son is still crying because of how shocked he is, ”a 60-year-old man from Agios Stefanos, a neighboring town, told Alpha TV.

“When this nightmare summer is over, we will repair all the damage as soon as possible,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, promising that “priority will be given to reforestation of burned areas.”

More than 1,450 Greek firefighters were continuing a fierce battle against five large fires north of Athens, on the island of Euboea, 200 km east of the capital, and three fires on the Peloponnese peninsula in the west, firefighters reported.

They have reinforcements from France, Cyprus, Croatia, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine, which will be joined by troops from the United Kingdom, two helicopters from Egypt and a plane from Spain.

Fifty-five active fires were counted, where more than 56,000 hectares have been devastated in the last ten days, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

Providential rain

Instead, the situation seemed to stabilize on the Turkish coast, where 13 of the 200 fires recorded in recent days were still active yesterday.

Providential rains in southwestern Turkey helped improve the situation in the Antalya region. According to local authorities, the fires are now under control, including in Manavgat, where downpours continued into the afternoon.

Although the Turkish firefighters have been assisted by many volunteers, they continue their efforts in the Mugla region, where three neighborhoods were evacuated, according to the municipality.

On both sides of the Aegean Sea, hundreds of houses were destroyed and thousands of tourists and residents were evacuated in recent days, many by sea, because of the flames fanned by the very high temperatures.

Evacuations continue

On the Greek island of Euboea, where the situation worsened yesterday, more than 1,300 people were evacuated by boat overnight from the coastal town of Limni, surrounded by flames. And more than 20 people were evacuated from Rovies beach on the same island, the press reported.

“More than 300 families whose only home was destroyed by fire do not know where to live and are relocated to hotels,” said Fanis Spanos, governor of the region.

The Greek Interior Ministry has promised € 1.5 million in emergency aid for the affected areas.

On the Peloponnese peninsula, the hills were still ablaze to the east of the Olympia archaeological site and in the Mani and Messinia regions.

“The fire burned more than 15 villages” in eastern Mani, according to Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou, who noted that 50 percent of the eastern mountainous tourist region burned. More than 5,000 residents and tourists were forced to flee there.

With thermometers hovering between 40 and 45ºC, Greece and Turkey are going through an exceptional heat wave, which experts unequivocally link to climate change.

A preliminary UN report, qualifies the Mediterranean area as a “focus of climate change.”

Eight people have died and dozens have been hospitalized from the fires in southern Turkey, while Greece has seen two deaths and a score of injuries, including two hospitalized volunteer firefighters in critical condition. (AFP)

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