(Avidence) Several regions in Greece continued to burn on Friday, a week after a heat wave that turned the country into a “powder keg”, while Turkey faced an equally critical situation.
Thick waves of smoke were still pouring in Friday evening from a major outbreak that broke out on Tuesday north of Athens and has resumed sharply since Thursday at the foot of Mount Barnes.
“We are suffocating again because there is a violent resumption of shooting,” said Spyros Fritos, mayor of the city of Charnes, 30 km from Athens, on Friday evening. “We are very concerned” as the flames gained momentum and spread to the northeast, he told Sky TV.
AFP journalists noted that fires raged in the village of Avidenes throughout the night, leaving a scene of charred cars, destroyed homes and charred trees.
Nearby, in Krioneri, houses, businesses, and factories were set on fire. “The fire is out of control. I don’t want to leave, my whole life is here,” says Vasiliki Papabanagiotis.
Part of the highway linking the north and south there was cut off as a precaution while 2,000 migrants were evacuated from the camp near Ritsuna.
At least 450 Greek firefighters were trying to reach the end of the fire, aided by air and ground resources, and French, Swedish, Romanian, Swiss, Israeli and Cypriot reinforcements.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the situation as “extremely dangerous” in the face of dozens of fires that have swept Greece since July 27 under the influence of scorching temperatures.
“We are facing unprecedented circumstances, as several days of a heat wave have turned the whole country into a powder keg,” he said Thursday evening in a televised speech.
A preliminary UN report accessed by AFP describes the Mediterranean as a “climate change hotspot” that will see major heat waves and droughts as well as heat-fueled fires.
With the mercury fluctuating between 40 and 45 degrees, Greece and Turkey are experiencing an exceptional heat wave, the “worst” for Greeks in three decades, according to Mr. Mitsotakis.
In the two neighboring countries, forests have been raging for 10 days, the fires destroying homes and businesses, and forcing hundreds of residents and tourists to evacuate.
On the Turkish side of the Aegean, 208 fires have been counted since the end of July, of which 12 are still ongoing on Friday and 196 fires have been brought under control, according to the Turkish Presidency.
On the Greek side, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias estimated that 56 of the 99 fires counted the previous day were still active on Friday.
Eight people died and dozens were hospitalized in southern Turkey.
In Greece, a resident of northern Athens was killed by a fall from an electric pole and an industrialist died of cardiac arrest in his factory in Krioneri as everything around him burned. Eighteen people were injured, including two volunteer firefighters in critical condition.
‘A very sad moment’
“It’s a very sad moment,” Konstantinos Konstantinidis, a resident of Korkoloy, one of the 20 villages evacuated from the Greek island of Evia, 200 kilometers east of Athens, told AFP.
In the southern Peloponnese, in the tourist town of Gythio, 5,000 residents and tourists were also asked to leave their accommodation and head to a nearby town, according to public television channel ERT.
In Turkey, in the port of Oren, Hulusi Kinic on Thursday refused to follow hundreds of villagers who had been evacuated by sea from the vicinity of the Milas Thermal Station, in the southwest of the country.
“Where do you want us to go in our time?” asks the 79-year-old retiree.
The fire that dangerously approached the local thermal power plant, which houses thousands of tons of coal, has been extinguished, according to the Mugla municipality.
Fighting continued on Friday in five Turkish provinces, including the tourist areas of Antalya and Mugla, where further evacuations took place, according to NTV.
In Athens, text messages warned travelers and Greeks of “extreme fire danger in the coming days”.
The authorities ban “access to forests and forest areas” and advise “to avoid all displacements” due to air pollution in the Greek capital.
The Athens Observatory warned that the air quality there was “poor”. With their faces covered to protect themselves from harmful particles, a few tourists braved the stifling weather to climb the Acropolis, before it closed at noon due to a heat wave.
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