UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Around 400 firefighters backed by European Union fire-fighting helicopters were deployed Thursday in Greece to control a raging fire for a third day in a large natural reserve on the island of Evia.
“We are more optimistic today because the wind has subsided,” said Georgos Kostopoulos, head of civil defense on the island, about 100 kilometers northeast of Athens.
Firefighters were able to besiege the fire in a valley near the village of Platana, backed by about 100 trucks and nine helicopters and nine aircraft, two of which came from Italy and Spain.
“We are doing everything in our power to create a fire stop near the village,” Costopoulos said. An excavator can be seen digging a trench behind her.
“We probably need two more days to consider that the fire is completely extinguished,” a fire brigade spokesman told Thema radio.
At least 2,300 hectares have been devastated, according to estimates by the European Union’s Copernicus satellite surveillance program.
The fire, which caused no casualties except for a firefighter taken to hospital on Tuesday due to burns, hit the 550-hectare Agrelitsa Nature Reserve and damaged it beyond any imagination.
– A ruined forest.
“The forest has been destroyed,” Dimitris Ianotos, a local official, told the online television station OpenOn. “As long as the fire continues, the authorities cannot estimate the extent of the damage,” he added.
“It is a major environmental disaster in a unique pine forest,” outgoing Governor Costas Bakoyais said Wednesday.
The fire broke out shortly after 3:00 am (0000 GMT) Tuesday in Evia, the second largest Greek island after Crete, prompting officials to evacuate four of its villages, including Platana. The fire broke out on a roadside and then quickly spread to the center of the forest where the reserve is located.
On Wednesday afternoon, firefighters were forced to tackle a new burning outpost, in what appeared to be near control. They confront fire on a land of dense grass and rugged terrain that is difficult to reach.
The European Commissioner for Humanitarian Action, Cyprus Christos Stylianides, on Wednesday in Athens described the alert of Greek troops as a “wonderful example” and spoke of “concrete European solidarity.”
At the request of Athens, the EU mobilized its means at the level of the rescue mechanism.
Greece has been affected in recent days by a series of fires due to the combined effect of high temperatures, strong winds and drought.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis cut short his holiday in Crete on Tuesday to return to Athens. “The forest fire will unfortunately be part of our daily lives because climate change is also affecting southern Europe,” he said Wednesday in Bachna, threatened by fire.
He praised firefighters, who face an average of about 50 forest fires a day. “I realize that our firefighters have done everything they can, especially in the last five days. They do not sleep and often do not eat,” he said.
Tuesday’s fires were put out on the island of Thasos in the north and in the areas of Biotia in the west and Peloponnese in the south.
Another disaster that threatened the eastern suburb of Athens was put out on Monday, while the tourist island of Elafonisos was a bait of fire.
Two fires around Athens’ marathon, north of Athens, were extinguished on Saturday near Mati tourist station, where 100 people died a year ago in Greece’s deadliest fire a year ago.
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