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Raging Greek wildfire is biggest recorded in the EU in 23 years

Firefighters in Greece continue to battle what has become the biggest wildfire in the EU since record-keeping began.

Burning continued in north east Greece for the 11th day on Tuesday, despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters and a fleet of water-dropping aircraft from Greece and several other European countries.

The wildfire, which was blamed for 20 of the 21 fire-related deaths in Greece last week, has led to the loss of large tracts of forest, scorched homes and triggered the evacuation of thousands of people.

It is the “largest single blaze recorded” in the EU since the European Forest Fire Information System began recording data in 2000, the European Commission said.

Dadia National Park

The fire department said six planes and four helicopters were assisting 475 firefighters on the ground, supported by 100 vehicles.

Another 260 firefighters and one helicopter were tackling reignitions of another major fire that had been burning in a forest on the southern slopes of Mount Parnitha, on the outskirts of Athens, the Greek capital.

Read more:
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Wildfires in nine Mediterranean countries

Czech firefighting commander Jiri Nemcik speaks on the radio before he and his colleagues deploy as a wildfire burns at Dadia National Park
Czech firefighting commander and his colleagues at Dadia National Park

The fire in the Alexandroupolis and Evros region – which first started on 19 August – was mainly concentrated deep in a forest near the border with Turkey, in an area difficult to access.

More than 81,000 hectares (200,000 acres) of land has been lost – an area larger than New York City – the European Union’s Copernicus Emergency Management Service, which uses satellite imagery to provide mapping data.

A burned scooter is seen in Acharnes suburb, on Mount Parnitha. Pic: AP
Destruction in Acharnes suburb, on Mount Parnitha. Pic: AP

A burned house stands in Acharnes suburb. Pic: AP
Pic: AP

With resources pushed to their limits, Greece called on the help of other European countries, receiving 12 aircraft and hundreds of firefighters from across the continent.

Germany, Sweden, Croatia, Cyprus and the Czech Republic have sent firefighting aircraft under the EU’s emergency response mechanism, with France and Spain set to follow.

Burned holy icons are seen in Acharnes suburb, on Mount Parnitha. Pic: AP
Burned holy icons in Acharnes suburb. Pic: AP

Janez Lenarcic, the top EU official for crisis management, said on Tuesday it was the bloc’s largest aerial firefighting operation and “underscores our commitment to swift and effective collective action in times of crisis”.

Greek authorities are investigating the causes of the fires, some of which have been suspected as arson.

Police on Friday said 24 people had been arrested for deliberate arson, out of 163 people arrested on fire-related charges since the start of the fire prevention season.


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