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Thousands flee fires around Athens

A man pours water from a pond in an attempt to prevent flames approaching his home from gaining a foothold, 35 kilometers north of Athens.
A man pours water from a pond in an attempt to prevent flames approaching his home from gaining a foothold, 35 kilometers north of Athens.

Thousands of people left their homes near Athens, where major fires on Friday killed the first person.

Greece’s worst heat wave in 30 years has ignited the fire with no relief in sight. High temperatures will remain, and strong winds are expected in the next few days.

According to Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias, 56 active fires broke out across the country on Friday.

A man died when an electric pole fell on him due to a fire in a suburb of Athens, according to the hospital he was taken to. At least nine people were previously hospitalized after being injured in the fires.

Residents of Athens urged to stay indoors due to smoke from the fires.

Coast Guard ships and tour boats have picked up 631 people from the beaches of Evia (Euboia), Greece’s largest island after Crete, since late Thursday. The fire broke out in a large forested area and reached the sea.

About 80 French firefighters, both military and civilian, arrived in Greece on Thursday evening to help fight the fires. Israel, Romania, Switzerland and Sweden also promised to send aid.

There are no excursions in the jungle

Temperatures have been hovering over 40 degrees all week and no chill seems to be on the way. In combination with strong winds, heat is expected to give a greater speed to the fire.

Greek authorities have completely banned visits to forests, national parks and natural areas until Monday due to the risk of fires. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said late Thursday evening that the country is facing a very critical situation and that preparedness for severe weather conditions due to climate change must be strengthened.

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– He said in a televised speech that we are dealing with unprecedented circumstances because several days of a heat wave turned the whole country into a powder keg.

Parts of a major highway running from Athens to the north of the country have been closed as a precaution as fires raged nearby. In Marathon City, hundreds of firefighters battle the flames.

Twelve fires in Turkey

In neighboring Turkey, 208 fires have been reported since July 28. Twelve of them are still burning as of Friday, according to the president’s office. Eight people died and dozens were taken to hospitals in the southern parts of the country.

A fire broke out, Friday, just five kilometers from a coal-fired power plant in Milas, in Turkey’s southwestern province of Mugla, according to local authorities. Extensive efforts were made to protect the power plant in the event of a fire.

There has been criticism of the Turkish authorities’ handling of the forest fires. According to one report, only 1.75 percent of the budget allocated to forest fire prevention was used.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also been criticized for being slow or reluctant to accept offers of assistance from some other countries.