New Greek wildfires flare as European heatwave moves

More than 100 firefighters and 25 aircraft are battling the two new blazes

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New wildfires have ignited in Greece sparking evacuation alerts as scores of firefighters try to control the blazes and aircraft drop water from the air.

Strong winds fanned the new fires as a summer heatwave scorched southern Europe and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis linked devastating blazes to the “climate crisis”.

Greece and Turkey only last week brought under control a number of fierce fires that had ravaged cities, villages and rural landscape.

Record temperatures hit Spain and wildfires spread through the central Avila province, forcing hundreds of people to evacuate, with more fires were sweeping through Italy.

Cooler temperatures were forecast for this week but it will remain hot, with Belgrade, Serbia, and Nicosia likely to experience 38°C, and Athens 33°C.

“The climate crisis tells us everything must change,” Mr Mitsotakis said.

Scores of firefighters were on Monday in the port city of Lavrio, south-east of the Greek capital.

Dimitris Loukas, the mayor of the Lavreotiki region which encompasses the area where the fire broke out, said arson was suspected after residents reported seeing someone in a car setting a skip on fire.

Evacuation orders were issued for three communities but some residents stayed in place to hose down their homes, hoping to spare them from the approaching flames.

The fire department sent in 91 firefighters, six water-dropping planes and six helicopters.

Another forest fire broke out in Vilia, Attica,60km north-west of Athens, prompting the mobilisation of air and ground forces and evacuation of three villages.

“The fire front is large and the winds in the area are very strong,” Thanasis Avgerinos, the deputy regional governor of East Attica said. “This is a very flammable, pine-covered area.

More than 60 firefighters there were supported by eight water-dropping planes and five helicopters.

Across Greece, tens of thousands of hectares of forest and farmland have been destroyed, homes and businesses have been burnt and thousands of people had to be evacuated by land or sea.

One volunteer firefighter died and four others admitted to hospital, including two in critical condition with burns.

The fires have stretched Greece’s response capabilities to the limit, leading the government to appeal for international help.

About 24 countries sent firefighters, helicopters, planes and vehicles to help Greece. By Monday most had left, although 40 Austrian firefighters remained in the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese, where two major fires have been burning for several days.

Several Mediterranean countries have suffered intense heat and quickly spreading wildfires in recent weeks, including Turkey, where at least 16 people were killed, and Italy.

In Algeria, wildfires in the mountainous Kabylie region killed at least 69 people.

In Russia’s northern Siberia region. 15 million acres of land have been burnt this year.

Updated: August 16, 2021, 3:45 PM