Athens, 14 August 2019 (dpa/MIA) – Plagued by a series of wildfires raging on several fronts, Greece on Tuesday asked the European Union to help it contain the situation.
Athens asked for immediate deployment of firefighting aircraft, the state broadcaster ERT reported. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis interrupted his vacation and was to be briefed in the evening.
The Greek civil protection service had been on red alert in critical areas since Saturday amid fears that weeks of drought and heat would spark fires and that the wind could quickly spread them.
And it did happen – fires erupted over the past three days in several places, with the island Euboea (Evia) being hit the hardest so far.
A massive pine forest caught fire on the island off the Attica peninsula. “The fire on Euboea reaches 20-30 metres in height,” said a fire department spokesman, Vasileios Vathrakogiannis.
Firefighting aircraft were deployed but were being hindered by a wall of smoke that reached Athens, some 50 kilometres to the east.
A village near the town of Psachna had to be evacuated but so far no injuries were reported, Vathrakogiannis told the broadcaster.
With smoke and ash choking the 3.8 million inhabitants of the Athens metropolitan area, doctors advised people, particularly the elderly and chronic pulmonary patients, to remain indoors.
Fires were also burning in western Greece and on the northern Aegean island of Thassos. Elafonisos, a tourist island off Peloponnese in the south, also burned over the weekend.
Firefighters were also in action on Cyprus, the island-state in the eastern Mediterranean, and in Bulgaria, Greece’s northern neighbour.
Bulgarian authorities closed two roads leading to Greece, including a major highway, because of fires in the south-western part of the country, state broadcaster bTV reported.
Forest and brush fires frequently plague Greece in the dry summer heat. The country’s mountainous terrain and wind blowing from the sea complicates efforts to extinguish them.
In July last year, more than 100 people died and thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged by a fast-spreading fire in the Athens area.