Flames tore through residential areas and threatened historic sites as wildfires burned across Greece for a fifth day on Saturday, a scene so apocalyptic that one local official described it as “a biblical catastrophe,” the Associated Press reports.
More than 100 wildfires have been reported across Greece this week as record-breaking temperatures scorch the nation. Greece had its most intense heat wave in three decades, with temperatures in Athens reaching a high of 45 degrees Celsius. Most of the fires have been quickly stamped out, but several others burned out of control into massive infernos, forcing thousands of residents and tourists to flee.
More Than 100 Wildfires Have Sparked Across Greece
As of Saturday, a Fire Service spokesperson told AP that containment efforts were “going well” for a major fire that swept through the forested slopes of Mount Parnitha, a national park north of Athens.
A Fire That Exploded in Size Overnight Cut Evia Island in Half
Ferries evacuated roughly 1,400 people from Evia, the country’s second-largest island, after a blaze flared up over Friday night and effectively cut the island in half, blocking other means of escape.
A makeshift flotilla of Coast Guard patrols, ferries, passenger ships, and fishing boats has been stationed near the island’s northern tip in case other residents and tourists need rescue, a Coast Guard spokesperson told AP. Terrifying footage of the evacuation was shared on Twitter, which you can check out below.
Απίστευτες εικόνες από πλοίο στη Λίμνη Ευβοίας που απομάκρυνε κόσμο από τις ακτές όπου έφτασε η μεγάλη πυρκαγιά την Παρασκευή 6 Αυγούστου 2021.
Βίντεο Stavros Dev pic.twitter.com/bSrb7BbfEu
— meteo.gr – Ο καιρός (@meteogr) August 6, 2021
Mediterranean Region Now Considered a ‘Wildfire Hotspot’
Wildfires have sparked in other nations across the region as well, including in Italy, Albania, North Macedonia, and Turkey.
The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, which is managed by the European Union, recently labelled the Mediterranean region a “wildfire hotspot” due to its unprecedented levels of activity this summer, which Greek and European officials are blaming on the effects of climate change.
Foreign Aid Deployed to Try to Contain the Blazes
On Wednesday, the European Commission mobilized emergency response forces from France, Cyprus, the Netherlands, and other nations to send firefighters and aircraft to contain the blazes across the Mediterranean region.
Massive Fires on Peloponnese Peninsula Compared to ‘Biblical Catastrophe’
Two massive fires continued to ravage the Peloponnese peninsula on Saturday, one near Ancient Olympia and one in the Mani region, according to AP. A local official in Mani estimated that around 70% of her area had been destroyed so far.
“It’s a biblical catastrophe. We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT via AP.
She and other officials and residents in southern Greece took to radio and television programs to amplify their pleas for more firefighting assistance.
Firefighters Are Facing ‘Exceptionally Dangerous, Unprecedented Conditions’
Greek Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias said Friday that firefighters are facing “exceptionally dangerous, unprecedented conditions” trying to put out dozens of wildfires across the nation, AP reports.
Greek Official Calls Rash of Wildfires a ‘Situation Without Precedent in Our Country’
“Over the past few days, we have been facing a situation without precedent in our country, in the intensity and wide distribution of the wildfires, and the new outbreaks all over [Greece],” said Greek Civil Protection Deputy Minister Nikos Hardalias via AP. “I want to assure you that all forces available are taking part in the fight.”