There were signs that the intensity of a fire raging on Evia, Greece’s second-largest island, may be falling as an international force of nearly 900 firefighters battled to control the blaze for a ninth day.
Yiannis Kontzias, Mayor of the Evia town of Istiaia, said there was less smoke in the air, meaning that water-dropping planes were able to work with greater ease. But flare ups remained the main problem on the island.
“I think we can say that the fire fronts are slowly coming under control,” Mr Kontzias said.
“Yesterday, we saw the light of the sun for the first time in days,” he told state TV.
EU member states and other countries, including the UAE, have sent firefighters, aircraft and other vehicles to support efforts.
The authorities are being criticised by many people in Greece, despite officials as recently as June insisting that that the country was prepared.
Nearly 3,000 residents were forced to flee Evia, but many stayed behind to assist firefighters from Greece, Cyprus, Poland, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania.
“We face extinction,” said Mr Kontzias, whose jurisdiction includes the popular spa town of Aidipsos.
“We have lost the month of August, which would have sustained people here in the coming year.
“[Local] tourism has been demolished, most [visitors] have left. The damage is huge, and the environmental disaster will have economic repercussions for decades.”
Greece’s tourism industry was already suffering from the effects of Covid-19.
Evia's rugged, forested northern part has suffered the greatest damage from this month's fires, with an estimated 50,000 hectares lost, along with dozens of homes.
The situation on the Peloponnese peninsula in south-west Greece was possibly even more precarious in the Gortynia municipality and also near the ancient site of the original Olympic Games.
An international team of nearly 600 Greek, Czech, UK, French and German firefighters are tackling fires there with the support of water-dropping planes and helicopters.
Christos Lambropoulos, deputy governor for the Arcadia region, in which Gortnyia is located, said teams were working to prevent the blaze hitting the densely forested Mount Mainalo.
“Villages do not seem at risk at the moment … but conditions change by the hour,” he said.
He said that winds in the area were picking up, increasing the risk that the fires would spread.
The fires come during Greece’s most severe heatwave in decades. While the temperatures and dry weather are regarded as prime causes, at least one major blaze seems to have been caused by arson. Several people have been arrested in different parts of the country and charged with causing fires, in some cases intentionally.
“[Our resources were] stronger than ever before. We faced an operationally unique situation with 586 fires in eight days during the worst weather phenomenon in 40 years,” civil protection deputy minister Nikos Hardalias said on Tuesday.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week apologised to his country for any possible shortcomings in the state's response.