Major Wildfires Burn in Greece, Spain’s Canary Island of Tenerife – News18

Major wildfires were burning in Greece and in Spain’s Canary Islands on Monday, with hot, dry and windy conditions hampering the efforts of hundreds of firefighters battling the blazes. Two of the fires have been burning for several days.

European Union officials have blamed climate change for the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in Europe, noting that 2022 was the second-worst year for wildfire damage on record after 2017.

In Greece, authorities said the body of a man was recovered from a sheep-pen in an area in the central Viotia region under evacuation as a wildfire approached. Local media reported the man apparently died of smoke inhalation while trying to save his livestock.

Two firefighters were being treated in a hospital for injuries sustained in a separate fire in the northern Kavala region, the fire department said.

Gale-force winds were fanning the flames of dozens of wildfires in several parts of the country, with the northeast particularly hard-hit. Evacuation orders were issued for villages in the northern regions of Alexandroupolis, Komotini, Kavala and Orestiada, the central region of Viotia and the island of Evia, while fire departments across the country were placed on general alert.

The coast guard said 20 people were evacuated by private boats from a fire on the island of Kythnos, while patrol boats and private vessels were on standby for other potential evacuations from fire areas in Viotia and Evia.

“The last 48 hours, unfortunately like the next 48 hours, are proving exceptionally critical due to the strong winds and high temperatures that are creating extensive fire fronts,” said Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vasilis Kikilias.

Since midnight, 53 fires had broken out across the country, including 14 in the northeastern Evros border region alone, he added. The government held an emergency meeting with the heads of the fire department, police, coast guard, armed forces and intelligence services.

Authorities banned public access to mountains and forests in several regions until Wednesday morning, and ordered military patrols.

The largest active wildfire was ravaging forests and farmland for a third day near the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis, where 13 villages were evacuated and several homes were destroyed over the weekend.

More than 200 firefighters, assisted by 17 water-dropping aircraft, volunteers and the armed forces were battling the fire, said Deputy Fire Chief Ioannis Artopios, a spokesman for the national fire service. Residents in Alexandroupolis were advised to keep their windows shut due to the smoke.

Fifty-six firefighters from Romania and two water-dropping aircraft from Cyprus were heading to Alexandroupolis, while 19 French firefighters were helping tackle the Evia fire.

Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer, which officials say have been exacerbated by climate change.

Greece’s deadliest wildfire killed 104 people in 2018, in a seaside resort near Athens that residents had not been warned to evacuate. Authorities have since erred on the side of caution, issuing swift mass evacuation orders whenever inhabited areas are under threat.

Last month, a wildfire on the resort island of Rhodes forced the evacuation of some 20,000 tourists. Days later, two air force pilots were killed when their water-dropping plane crashed while diving low to tackle a blaze on Evia. Another three wildfire-related deaths have been recorded this summer.

In Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of West Africa, a wildfire that police say was started deliberately last Tuesday on Tenerife continued to burn out of control. More than 12,000 people have been evacuated and about 13,400 hectares (33,000 acres) of pine forest and scrubland have burned.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the fire area would be declared a catastrophe zone, entitling the island to funds for reforestation and compensation for people affected.

Canary Island regional President Fernando Clavijo told Spain’s Cadena SER radio “the worst is over,” adding that the hundreds of firefighters had made progress.

The fire in the northeast of the island is not near any of the islands’ main tourist areas. The blaze has come close to some 10 municipalities, but there have been no injuries or burned homes so far.

In Portugal and Italy, two other southern European countries often plagued by summer wildfires, temperatures were predicted to soar this week.

Italian authorities issued heat warnings for eight cities from Bolzano in the north to Rome in central Italy on Monday as temperatures were forecast to hit 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). Storm warnings were in effect in the southern regions of Calabria, Basilicata and Sicily.

In Portugal, temperatures were forecast to reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in some southern parts of the country.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – Associated Press)

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