Thousands evacuated in Greece due to forest fires

Thousands of people in Greece have been evacuated since a wave of forest fires broke out last week in areas along the Mediterranean, with firefighters continuing to battle flames on Saturday. 

Ferries evacuated a total of 1,153 people late Friday into Saturday morning from a seaside village and beaches on the Greek island of Evia, The Associated Press reported

Parents with their babies, elderly people and vacationers in the forested mountains that have become a popular tourist destination were carried off as flames towered behind them, with firefighters and volunteers continuing to battle the blazes through the night. 

According to the AP, a total of more than 100 wildfires have broken out across Greece over the past few days.

While first responders have been able to tame some, others have rapidly burned homes and caused widespread ecological damage. 

To the south, in the Mani region of the Peloponnese, a local official told reporters that about 70 percent of the area had been destroyed. 

“It’s a biblical catastrophe,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Drakoulakou said, according to the AP. “We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality.” 

Greek Civil Protection Chief Nikos Hardalias said late Friday that firefighters were facing “exceptionally dangerous, unprecedented conditions.” 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the fire department’s headquarters in Athens early Saturday after a fire that broke out in the area the day before killed a volunteer firefighter. 

Mitsotakis, who said he had “deep sadness for what has happened,” added that he believed “with the participation of society, when this nightmarish summer has passed, we will turn all our attention to repairing the damage as fast as possible, and in restoring our natural environment again,” according to the AP. 

The continued blazes come after Greek Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said Thursday that firefighters were able to save the site of the ancient Olympic Games, keeping a nearby blaze away from the now popular tourist attraction where the games were previously held every four years for more than a millennium starting in 776 B.C. 

Other countries along Southern Europe have also been battling similar destructive blazes, including Turkey, though the AP reported that most fires in the Turkish seaside province of Mugla appeared to be under control as of Saturday. 

Leaders throughout Europe have blamed the intensity of the fires on climate change, with Virginijus Sinkevicius, the EU commissioner for the environment, tweeting Thursday, “We need immediate actions #ForNature before it’s too late.”

Tags Climate change European Union forest fires Greece Mediterranean The Associated Press Turkey wildfires

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