Nearly 400 firefighters and EU water bombers were deployed in Greece on Thursday to fight a fire that devastated a natural reserve on the island of Euboea for the third consecutive day, officials deploring "a huge ecological disaster".
"We are more optimistic today because the winds have calmed down," ERP spokesman Yiorgos Kostopoulos, the island's civil protection officer, who is about 100 kilometers northeast of Athens, told public television.
The firefighters managed to block fire in a ravine near the village of Platana, supported by a hundred trucks, nine helicopters and twelve planes, including two from Italy and one from Spain.
"We are doing everything possible to create new fire defenses near the village," Kostopoulos said. You could see a digger digging a trench behind him.
The fire, which did not kill, affected the Agrilitsa forest, causing invaluable damage in this 550-hectare nature reserve.
- "Ravaged forest" -
"The forest has been ravaged," Dimitris Yiannoutsos, local community leader, told TV Open TV. As long as the fire remains active the authorities are "unable to fully estimate the extent of the damage," he added.
"It is a huge ecological disaster in a unique pine forest" that has remained "intact" until today, the former regional governor, Costas Bakoyannis, deplored the day before.
The fire started on Tuesday shortly after 03:00 (00:00 GMT) on the island, the second largest in the country after Crete, resulting in the evacuation of four villages including Platana. The fire broke out on the side of the road and quickly spread to the center of the island where the reserve is located.
On Wednesday afternoon, as it appeared to be under control, the firefighters had to face a new recovery. Fire soldiers fight on land with dense vegetation, rugged terrain and difficult access.
The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Action, the Cypriot Christos Stylianides, Wednesday described in Athens "exemplary" the mobilization of Greek forces and evoked a "tangible European solidarity".
At the request of Athens, the European Union mobilized its resources from the Rescue mechanism, operational since the beginning of the year in anticipation of forest fires.
Greece has been affected in recent days by a series of fires under the combined effect of scorching temperatures, high winds and drought.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis shortened his holiday in Crete to return to Athens on Tuesday. "Forest fires will unfortunately be part of our daily life as climate change also affects southern Europe," he said Wednesday to Psachna, threatened the day by the flames.
He had previously paid tribute to the firefighters who face each day about fifty forest fires on average. "I am aware that our firefighters have given everything, especially these last five days, they do not sleep and often do not eat," he said Tuesday night.
Fires were controlled Tuesday on the island of Thassos (north), as well as in the regions of Boeotia (center-west) and Peloponnese (south).
On Saturday, two fires were fired around Marathon, north of Athens, not far from the resort of Mati, where 102 people died a year ago in the most deadly fire in Greece.
© 2019 AFP