What Is Happening With The Wildfires In Greece?


K. Tsakalidis. Source: Kathimerini, (2021, August 10). The reaction of an elderly lady (Ms. Panagiota) who reacts as the wildfire reaches her house in the village of Gouves.

[Photograph]

https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/561463282/metopo-chiliometron-sti-gortynia-machi-me-tis-anazopyroseis-stin-eyvoia/


Since July 2021, countries across the northern hemisphere are facing some of the worst wildfires that have been recorded in years. North America, Russia, Italy, Turkey, and Greece are some of the more affected states, probably because of their climate; hot and dry conditions allow fires to spread more intensely. Indeed, this month, Europe's Mediterranean countries had to deal with one of the worst heatwaves for the last decades. Remarkable is that, according to official statistics, the temperature in northern Greece on Aug. 4 reached 47.1°C, when Europe's highest record is 48°C. Fires hit the residential areas in the north and center country, leading the Government to request the evacuation of the villages. Nightmarish were the weeks that followed; over 145 wildfires were raging across Greece since Aug. 3 which means that more than one million square miles had burned.


Source: BBC, (2021, August 09). More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from the island of Evia by ferry.

[Photograph]

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-58132679


Forest fires are a common occurrence in Greece during the summer months. However, the climate change with the unprecedented heatwave seems to make it even more difficult to extinguish them quickly. Also, the fact that, in Greece, many nuclear fronts broke out at the same time (in Parnitha, in Evia, and in Peloponnese including, Arkadia and Olympia) led to the disbandment of the fire forces. As a result, firefighters were struggling to keep fires at bay and, many villages have been evacuated. In Evia, many residents and organizations complained that during the first 2 days of the fire, they had no help from aircraft since the forces were engaged in the fire in Attica. According to BBC news, in Evia, more than 2,000 people have been evacuated via ferry, when ten ships are waiting at Pefki, on the north side of the island, ready to evacuate more people if it was needed.


The dramatic events began on 3 Aug. in the morning, when a fire broke out at the foot of Parnitha. Noteworthy is that although there were no strong winds at that moment and the area is close to military airfields with aerial firefighting equipment, the fire spread quickly. Almost at the same time, within almost 2 hours, three new fires broke out in Kastania East Mani, Vasilitsi Messinia, and Myrtia, Evia, causing the multi-division of the fire brigade. Heartbreaking images unfolded in Northern Evia, with the fire reaching inside Pefki, one step before the sea. As of, Tuesday 10 Aug., 527 autopsies had been performed by 150 engineers from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. According to Kathimerini, 112 houses have been evaluated as uninhabitable while the investigations are pressing ahead.



Source: BBC, (2021, July 27). Smoke from the fire was seen as far as the capital Athens.

[Photograph]

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-57987855



The fire and armed forces of the country fought on all the fire fronts that were in progress in Greece. Also, through the European Civil Protection Mechanism, several countries responded to Greece's call for help. More specifically, 40 firefighters from France, 40 from Qatar, 40 from Kuwait, and 16 firefighters with 4 vehicles from Israel arrived at the front in Parnitha. A total of 892 firefighters with 50 groups of infantry, 232 vehicles, 5 aircraft, and 12 helicopters fought the fire on the front in North Evia. The shipping of aircraft from Sweden, the helicopters from Serbia and Switzerland with the infantry fire forces that arrived from abroad played a decisive role in suppressing the most destructive front. In the fires that broke out in ancient Olympia and Gortynia, 578 firefighters, including aid from Germany, France, the United Kingdom and, the Czech Republic, fought the flames. While, in the front in Mani, 62 firefighters and 2 aircraft sent from Cyprus work together to put over the fire. In the firefighting operations on all fronts in Greece, the help of the volunteer firefighters and the local population was extremely important. Despite the Civil Protection call for evacuation, they refused to leave their place and property, giving their own battle with fire. The Greek wildfires are finally under control as the rainfall and the cooler temperatures help firefighters work. The rain and the thunderstorms were a miraculous moment for Evia, after 10 days of devastating fires.


The consequences, of the wildfires, are not yet completely known. Apart from the immediate victims who lost their property, the matter of air pollution is raised and affects all of us. According to Mark Parrington, a Senior Researcher at the European Atmospheric Monitoring Program, Copernicus (CAMS), the impact of wildfires in Greece is evident even several kilometers higher in the atmosphere, where the carbon emissions are already huge.



Source: Kathimerini, (2021, August 11).

[Photograph]

https://www.kathimerini.gr/society/561463387/mainetai-to-pyrino-metopo-sti-gortynia-zimies-se-spitia-anazopyroseis-sti-voreia-eyvoia/


The wildfires around the world were the result of our timeless indifference and abusive attitude towards the environment. The world is changing and hopefully, many governments seem to understand the importance of linking politics to the environmental crisis and climate change. Crucial is to emphasize the prevention of the natural habitat by increasing the firefighting equipment and conducting systematic deforestation during the spring months. For the forest areas and generally for ecosystem protection, the punishment of arsonists is not enough. The desideratum is the creation of an effective model of action to avoid the accumulation of flammable matter. Additional incentives for young entrepreneurs may be the "key" in creating this new "environmental" growth lever, reversing the growing rural abandonment.






References:


International:





  • Kitsantonis, N. (2021, August 9). Greece works to contain wildfires as help arrives from other nations. New York Times.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/08/09/world/europe/greece-fires.html




GreekReferences:








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Anna-Aikaterini Bati

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