Greece on high alert as forest fires spiral out of control – POLITICO
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A fourth day of devastating forest fires in Greece saw thousands of Athenians evacuated from their homes as flames approached the Greek capital.
The outlook is dire, with forecasts of strong winds that will fuel the fires. Neighboring North Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria and Turkey are also fighting fires.
“Our country is facing an extremely critical situation,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. saying in a televised address Thursday night, adding that the country needed to strengthen its preparedness for severe weather brought on by climate change. The government’s response is under attack by the opposition, which accuses it of mishandling the disaster.
Thousands of Athenians had to evacuate their homes overnight in the northern suburbs of the capital as the blasts regained strength Thursday night, while hundreds were evacuated by boat from Greece’s second-largest island, Evia, near Athens. A 38-year-old man was killed when a power tower fell in the Athenian suburb of Ippokrateios Politeia. At least nine other people have been treated at the hospital.
“The locals fought all night to save their fortune, but in vain,” said Giorgos Tsouparniotis, mayor of Mantoudi, a town in Evia, He said Local TV, adding that more than 300 homes and some 45,000 hectares have been destroyed. “The battle was uneven, the fire burned everything in its path. At night we lived a nightmare, seeing people hanging from their roofs with the house already on fire and not coming down … These people fought alone to save what they could ”.
Six of Greece’s 13 regions went on high alert on Friday as firefighters battled more than 92 fires. The forests are on fire and hundreds of houses, cars and businesses have caught fire. Parts of the power grid have been damaged and authorities are imposing power outages to save energy. The suffocating smoke has given Athens is one of the worst airs in the world.
Helicopters and water bombers buzzed overhead; The military has also been hired to fight the fires. Firefighters, planes and helicopters are already in the country or en route from Cyprus, France, Sweden, Romania, Switzerland and Israel.
With the fires still active, the political fallout is starting to grow. Opposition parties argue that the winds and heat wave are not enough to explain why the fires are out of control. Local authorities in Evia and the Peloponnese also complain about the lack of resources to deal with the fires.
“They have brought 1,000 policemen here who do nothing, I need firefighters to save the town,” said Konstantinos Anyfantis, deputy mayor of Afidnes, east of Athens.
Mitsotakis said authorities are prioritizing saving lives, admitting that it is “simply impossible” to prevent damage to property and forests, while protecting people.
“There will be time for criticism and self-criticism, but not now,” he said.
The government issued a decree on Thursday that prohibits people from entering the forests until at least Monday, with fines of up to € 10,000.
Justice Minister Kostas Tsiaras warned that the arson will be treated as a serious crime and anyone convicted faces up to five years in prison.
“The environmental damage caused by the forest fire is for the first time explicitly standardized as a crime and the perpetrators will be punished with imprisonment,” he said. tweeted.