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What’s happening with wildfires in Greece?

The fires have become a ‘disaster of unprecedented proportions’

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Fire burns a forest in Avgaria village on Evia island, north of Athens, Greece.

Fire burns a forest in Avgaria village on Evia island, about 115 miles north of Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021.

Petros Karadjias, Associated Press

Over the last week, Greece has been battling devastating wildfires across the country. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed and thousands of people have been evacuated as firefighters continue battling the blazes, reported CNN.

  • Many residents in fire-stricken areas have complained that the government failed them and did not respond soon enough, reported The Associated Press.
  • Evia, Greece’s second largest island and a popular tourist destination, has become the center of the fires, per CNN.

The Greek government appealed for international aid. More than 20 European and Middle Eastern nations responded to the call, reported The New York Times. Still, weather predictions of strong winds on Tuesday threaten to reignite blazes across the country, reported Reuters.

What are the wildfires in Greece like?

Three areas of Greece have been hardest hit by the recent wildfires: Attica, Evia and the Peloponnese, reported Reuters. In the last few days, more than 63 organized evacuations have taken place with thousands of people fleeing the fires. This included evacuating some residents of Evia by ferry.

  • Across the country, more than 586 wildfires are burning, per CNN.
  • The wildfires have burned more than 2,500 square miles of land in Greece, per Reuters.
  • This is two times the size of the entire state of Rhode Island, per data from State Symbols.

In some areas, local residents and officials joined with firefighters to battle the blazes. Monday night on Evia, residents formed a human chain between two villages. Armed with hoses and buckets of water, they managed to save their homes, per The New York Times.

  • Those in the devastated areas have complained about the government’s mishandling of the wildfires and failure to respond adequately promptly, per The New York Times.
  • These residents felt they needed to take responsibility for fighting the fires or no one would protect their homes, according to the Greek Reporter, a local newspaper.

How did the wildfires in Greece start?

Like other climate change-affected regions, monthslong drought combined with a record heatwave created ideal conditions for wildfires in Greece, reported CNN. The devastating fires on Evia ignited on Aug. 3 and are still burning. In some regions, strong winds have fueled blazes and complicated firefighting efforts, per Reuters.

  • Multiple suspects have been arrested in connection with the fires, per The New York Times.
  • Suspects have been arrested for arson charges and for negligence, both leading to igniting wildfires, per The New York Times

Further investigation will soon be underway on possible evidence of an organized arson plan by a criminal organization, reported The New York Times.

How much damage have the wildfires caused?

The wildfires have already devastated the country. Many individuals relied on the now-destroyed forests for their livelihoods and their crops of resin, honey, olives and figs, reported CNN.

  • Over half of the island of Evia has burned, per CNN.
  • Thick smoke has settled over towns nearby the fires, per the AP.

“These last days have been some of the most difficult for our country in decades,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in a televised address Monday evening, per CNN.

  • The wildfires have caused a “​natural disaster of unprecedented proportions” for the country, said Mitsotakis.

The prime minister also apologized for any weaknesses of the government and promised compensation for the fire victims. Further details are expected to be announced this week, reported The Hill.