Bushfires rage near ancient Olympic site in Greece

Scorching temperatures causing devastating blazes in Greece and Turkey

Greek firefighters battled a fire near the ancient site of the Olympic Games and evacuated more than a dozen villages on an island a couple of hours from Athens.

The blaze in the Peloponnese region raged not far from the archaeological site of Olympia, where the Olympic flame begins its journey on the way to the host country of the modern Olympics.

At least 170 firefighters, 50 fire engines, six helicopters and aircraft dropping water are being used there.

Local residents have been moved to safety and the site is currently out of danger.

“Our forces fought an all-night battle … to keep the archaeological site and the town intact,” said Mihalis Chrisohoidis, the minister of citizen protection.

After destroying about 20 houses, “the fire's front is now heading towards Lalas”, a wooded, mountainous area to the north-west of Olympia, local official Nektarios Farmakis said.

On Evia, about 200 kilometres east of Athens, 150 houses were destroyed on the island and the fire surrounded a monastery.

On Thursday, thick smoke and strong winds added to the difficulties for the firefighting aircraft.

“We're waging a battle of the titans,” deputy minister for civil protection Nikos Hardalias said. “The hardest is still to come.”

Record-breaking heatwaves recently struck south-east Europe, leading to devastating wildfires in Greece and neighbouring Turkey.

Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, which is part of the EU’s space programme, said the eastern Mediterranean fires were emitting large amounts of smoke pollution into the atmosphere.

“We are closely monitoring the intensity of fires in Turkey and around the Mediterranean area and the impacts they are having on the atmosphere,” said Mark Parrington, a scientist and bushfire expert at the Service.

“It is especially important to closely watch these high intensity fires because the smoke they emit can [affect] air quality locally and downwind.”

Updated: August 5th 2021, 9:57 AM