Greece, Europe battling blazes with thousands rushing to safety

Greece is among the worst affected countries by wildfires raging through the Balkans, Italy, and the southeastern Mediterranean. Fires rampaged through some of Greece’s last remaining forests for yet another day Saturday, after thousands flee by land and by sea.

By Stefan J. Bos

Greece is experiencing apocalyptic scenes. A ferry assists this mother with a baby and hundreds of other panicked-stricken Limni village residents by the sea.  A person in a wheelchair is also rushed to safety. Some manage to take their dogs on board as wildfires illuminate the skies nearby on the island of Evia.

Authorities say that overnight into Saturday morning, ferries evacuated nearly 1,200 people from this seaside area. These families with children, residents with their pets, and tourists hoped the ferry would safely bring them to Edipsos.

Elsewhere massive fires advanced up the slopes of Mount Parnitha, a national park north of Athens. It is also one of the last substantial forests near the Greek capital.

The blaze sent choking smoke across the capital region, where authorities set up a hotline for residents with breathing problems.
Throughout the day, fire crews struggled to contain constant flare-ups.

Thousands of residents and vacationers in areas where fires broke out days ago fled by land and by sea as firefighters and volunteers battled through the night. At least one firefighter reportedly died since Friday, and dozens of people needed treatment across the country.

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Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visited the fire department’s headquarters in Athens on Saturday morning and expressed
his “deep sadness for what has happened” and pledged support for victims.

Greece isn’t suffering alone in wildfires linked to what has been described as Europe’s worst heatwave in decades.

Several Greek and European officials have blamed what they view as dangerous climate change for a large number of summer fires
burning through southern Europe, from southern Italy to the Balkans, Greece, and Turkey.

In Turkey’s seaside province of Mugla, the most devastating fires appeared to be under control Saturday. Municipalities in Marmaris and the wider Mugla province said cooling efforts were ongoing in areas where fires were brought under control.

But the forestry minister warned that blazes continued in the Milas area.
On the Turkish Mediterranean, municipal officials in Antalya said a fire continued around the Eynif plain where teams of wild horses live. However, fires in Manavgat, where fires raged for days, were reported to be under control.

Other countries facing wildfires this summer have also included France, where wildfires in the southeast forced the evacuation of thousands. Massive fires also have been burning across Siberia in Russia’s north for weeks. And with summer not yet over in much of Europe, more massive wildfires are expected.