Massive wildfires: Greece asks for EU help, first to respond are firefighters from Romania, Malta

Greece, which is facing massive wildfires earlier than usual, is asking for help from the European Union. The only firefighters who are currently helping the Greeks are from Romania and Malta. France and Italy sent four utility planes. But more firefighters from other countries are also needed, says the Greek government, and more aid. Near Athens, five-meter-high flames forced authorities to evacuate several homes and a monastery.

The biggest problems are in the regions around Athens: large fires just a few kilometers from the outskirts – both north and south of the Greek capital. Forests on the hills surrounding the town of Mandra, just 20 kilometers from central Athens, caught fire from high temperatures and drought. Local residents evacuated from houses threatened by fires are now watching, from safe places, firefighting helicopters pouring water over the flames. A group of nuns, whom the police evacuated from the monastery, prayed before leaving.

 “The flames were over 10 meters and were at a distance of up to four meters from the properties, the wind was gusting over 60 kilometers and the temperatures were over 45 degrees. Fires also broke out on the other side of the Aegean Sea, in Turkey. The army has already intervened with helicopters and specialized planes to put out the fires. There are numerous outbreaks around the Dardanelles, and they are advancing by the hour,” said Andrei Iancu – the commander of the Greek fire department.

Two forest fires, fueled by strong winds, continue to wreak havoc west of the Greek capital, Athens, while another fire broke out on the tourist island of Rhodes, but without threatening residential areas, Greek firefighters said. One hundred and twenty firefighters, assisted by four utility planes and three helicopters, are fighting the flames in the region around the seaside resort of Loutraki, about 80 kilometers from Athens.

The fire is moving to the region around the Isthmus of Corinth, according to the ANA news agency. Firefighters managed to keep the fire at a safe distance from the refineries in the maritime industrial area west of Athens.

On the island of Rhodes (south-eastern Greece), a forest fire broke out on Tuesday afternoon and is advancing towards the center of the island, but “without threatening the residential areas for the moment”, the quoted spokesman emphasized. 86 firefighters, three utility planes and three helicopters were deployed to keep the flames under control.

The European Civil Protection Mechanism was activated and four utility planes from France and Italy arrived in Greece on Tuesday. Starting on Thursday, Greece will be affected by a new heat wave, with maximum temperatures of 44°C. Firefighters warned of “extremely high risk” especially in the Athens region, the island of Crete and the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

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