Thousands of people fled their homes on the Greek island of Evia as wildfires raged uncontrollably for a sixth day on Sunday (August 8), and ferries were on alert for more evacuations after many of them were brought to safety by sea. Writes Marco Trujillo and Carolina Tajares.
The fire soon spread to Evia, the second largest island in Greece, on several fronts, destroying thousands of hectares of virgin forests in its northern part and evacuating dozens of villages.
Houses in five villages were set ablaze, but the full extent of the destruction was not immediately known.
(It’s) like a horror movie, said a 38-year-old pregnant woman named Mina after she boarded a rescue ferry in Pefki, where ash covered the port.
“But this is not the movie now, this is a fact, this is the horror we experienced last week,” he said.
Wildfires broke out in many parts of the country during a week-long heatwave, the worst in Greece in three decades, with soaring temperatures and hot winds causing a fire. Across the country, forest lands were burned and dozens of homes and businesses were destroyed.
Since Tuesday, the Coast Guard has evacuated more than 2,000 people, including many elderly residents, from different parts of Evia, which is connected to the mainland by a bridge, in dramatic rescue operations at sea as the night sky turns red.
Others fled their villages on foot all night and walked along roads strewn with smoky trees.
“A house is burning here,” a woman told emergency teams on the ground in the Vasilika settlement, pointing to a fire burning in the distance.
“Everywhere, everywhere, everywhere,” replied one of the firefighters.
A firefighting plane drops a drop of water when a massive fire broke out near the town of Ilinica on the island of Evia, Greece on August 8, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
Central Greece’s governor, Phanes Spanos, said the situation in the north of the island had been “extremely difficult” for about a week.
“The fronts are vast, the area of scorched earth is vast,” he told Sky TV. He said more than 2,500 people have been accommodated in hotels and other shelters.
Greece has deployed the army to help fight the fires, and several countries, including France, Egypt, Switzerland and Spain, have also sent aid, including firefighting aircraft.
More than 570 firefighters are battling the Evia fire, with two active fronts burning in the north and south of the island.
In the town of Psaroupoli, evacuees said they were angry.
“I lost my house… Nothing will change the next day,” said a woman named Vasilisa.
“It’s a disaster. It’s huge. Our villages have been destroyed, our homes and possessions are left, nothing and nothing.”
Greek Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said emergency crews were making “supernatural efforts” against multiple fronts.
“Next night is going to be tough,” he said during an emergency briefing Sunday night. He said earlier that the planes that bombed the area with water faced various obstacles, including poor visibility due to thick plumes of smoke rising over the mountains and turmoil.
A contained fire on the slopes of Mount Parnitha has engulfed the northern suburbs of Athens, but weather conditions mean there is still a high risk of it erupting again.
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