Major fires are being fought by Greek firefighters on several fronts
Major fires are being fought by Greek firefighters on several fronts

Athens: On Wednesday, Greek firefighters fought to put out raging fires across the nation for a fifth day, some of which were near an acrid, smoke-filled Athens.

19 people, including two children, who are thought to be migrants, have perished in forest fires over the past two days.

Along with several other smaller fires, hundreds of firefighters were battling on two major fronts, one close to Athens and the other in northeastern Greece.

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The largest forest adjacent to the capital, Mount Parnitha, was scorched by a single fire that was fanned by strong winds. It was burning close to the border of a national park.

At a press conference, Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias stated that "the situation in Parnitha is extremely critical." According to the European Commission, 246 firefighters, 40 vehicles, and 8 aircraft from 8 member states were dispatched to assist. On Wednesday morning, evacuation orders were issued for a number of communities outside the capital, including three nursing homes.

Homes in the Menidi neighbourhood of northwest Athens were damaged by the fire, which also momentarily put an army camp in danger. Nikos Kountromichalis, a Hellenic Red Cross organiser, told state television ERT in Menidi that "many people don't want to leave their homes."

According to him, his team discovered some elderly people who had passed out in their own yards and treated them for burns and respiratory issues.

In the nearby suburbs of Hasia and Fyli, fires have already destroyed homes and other property. Additionally evacuated was a migrant detention facility in Amygdaleza, which is north of Athens.

A UNESCO-listed Byzantine monastery in Boeotia, north of Athens, was dangerously close to being destroyed by another fire. Over 350 fires were put out by Greek firefighters in the previous five days, with over 200 occurring in the previous 48 hours, according to Kikilias.

The fire service reported that there were currently close to 100 unchecked.
140 people, the majority of whom were unintentional, according to fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios, have been detained on suspicion of arson.

The majority of incidents involved welding and agricultural work that disregarded high-danger weather warnings. This is not a figure of speech; it is an unprecedented situation, he said. Since the introduction of fire-risk maps in 2009, Kikilias claimed that this summer has been the worst for fires in the nation.

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He noted that this year had seen "twice as many fire emergency warnings issued as in 2021, four times those of 2019, and seven times those of 2012."

During my 32 years of service Greek fire department chief Yiorgos Pournaras told reporters, "I've never seen such extreme conditions," pointing out that even at night, winds were still strong.

Even though water bombers arrived on the scene within minutes, the Parnitha fire had spread, according to Pournaras.
The smell of scorched earth and a thick, black cloud of smoke filled the sky as the Greek capital awoke on Wednesday.

Stathis Topalidis, the deputy mayor of Menidi, told state television ERT that "unfortunately, the wind does not help at all."

Authorities ordered the evacuation of Ano Liosia, a neighbourhood in northwest Athens with over 25,000 residents, on Tuesday, though some residents remained in their homes to try to protect their properties.

For a fifth day, flames in the northeastern region of Evros, close to the Turkish border in Alexandroupolis and the Dadia forest, a haven for rare birds of prey, raged unchecked.

Overnight, more evacuation orders were issued for the area.

On social media, unfounded rumours and accusations that migrants are to blame for the fires' start are rapidly gaining ground.
On Wednesday, the prosecutor of Greece's Supreme Court commanded local authorities to look into both the causes of the disastrous fire and any allegations of racism against migrants.

Three people who had crammed unauthorised immigrants into a cargo trailer were detained by Greek authorities on Tuesday in northern Greece on suspicion of starting the fires.

The wave of wildfires this week has claimed the lives of twenty people.
Tuesday morning, two children and eighteen other people were discovered dead in a forest fire north of Alexandroupolis, close to the Turkish border.

"The possibility that they are people who entered our country illegally is under investigation," fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios said in a televised address. No local residents had been reported missing.

On Monday, a dead body thought to be a migrant was discovered in a nearby forest. Early on Monday, a senior shepherd had been discovered in central Greece.

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The National Observatory of Athens reported that wildfires destroyed over 40,000 hectares (nearly 99,000 acres) in just three days from August 19 to 21.

According to meteorologists, the extremely hot and dry conditions that increase the risk of fire will last until Friday.

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