Amid its fiercest heat wave in 30 years, Greece is on fire. With the flames in its second week, three people have died, about 10% of the country’s forests have been burned, and the international community is sending supplies.
“We may have done what was humanly possible, but sometimes that was not enough in the unequal battle with nature,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday night at a televised press conference.
The clashing images of the flames have spread across social media, showing alarming scenes similar to the catastrophic fires seen in Australia and California. It comes less than a month after floods devastated central Europe, and as Siberia, Turkey and Italy also fight intense forest fires.
Forest fires are believed to be the product of climate change, and extreme weather events are more likely due to warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. On Monday the International Panel on Climate Change, detailing the path that humanity is charting towards a potentially uninhabitable world.
When did the fire start?
The fires started at the end of July, in the city of Petras. When July turned into August, the conflagrations occurred mainly in four more regions: Attica, Olympia, Messinia, and Evia. The fires in Attica and Evia are north and northeast of Athens, close enough that the suburbs of Athens literally feel the heat, with the blue summer sky now turning to gray smoke, while the fires in Olympia and Messinia They are in the southwest, plus regional Greece.
Fires are burning across much of the country, and Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said more than 60 fires were active over the weekend. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said firefighters had fought more than 560 fires in total.
Despite the extent of wildfires, the northeastern island of Evia is the epicenter. The national government has called for a state of emergency and urged Evia residents to evacuate their homes, although many have defied the orders. The ships have been transporting thousands of Evia residents to safe parts of the country.
With no immediate end in sight, the fires have already proven to be an ecological disaster. In estimated 10-12% of the country’s forests have been burned, amounting to 93,000 hectares of damage. Three people were killed in the fires, including a firefighter, and 20 were injured.
What caused the fires?
Extreme heat. Greece has experienced a particularly hot European summer, said to be the most sustained heat wave since 1987 that killed more than a thousand people. The heat wave has also affected Italy and Turkey, and forest fires in the latter country have already claimed eight lives.
A possible arson is being investigated as a cause, with at least three people have been arrested for arson so far. However, the hot conditions that allowed the flames to ignite and ignite are being blamed, at least in part, for climate change. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was unequivocal about the cause of the fire: “If there are even few people who have reservations about whether climate change is real, I ask you to come here and see,” he said.
“We have seen devastating fires in Turkey and Greece amid an intense and long-lasting heat wave in the Mediterranean,” said World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary General Petteri Taalas. “Siberia, a region traditionally associated with permafrost, has once again seen major wildfires following exceptional heat waves, fires and low Arctic sea ice in 2020.”
“The harsh reality of climate change unfolds in real time before our eyes.”
An IPCC report released Monday contained a staggering amount of data and evidence that human activity is causing the planet to heat up, and our window to stop the process is closing. The report provides the most up-to-date estimates on the increasing likelihood of the climate exceeding a warming level of 1.5 degrees Celsius in the coming decades and, as IPCC reports have done since 1990, urges immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. .
Is anyone helping Greece?
More than 20 countries have contributed to Greece’s battle against forest fires. The firefighters have been dispatched by France, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany, Kuwait, Israel, Kuwait, Maldova, Romania, Qatar, Serbia, Slovakia, the United Kingdom and Ukraine. Others, like Russia, Spain and the United States have sent planes and other vehicles.