At least 20 dead, buildings torched down as Greece experiences its worst wildfires on record
At least 355 fires have broken out and charred bodies of 20 people have been recovered so far as raging wildfires have spread across Greece, reaching neighboring Turkey and Spain’s Canary Islands, Greek authorities said.
Greek’s largest forest, Dadia, experienced the fifth day of uncontrollable fire, just outside the fringes of the northeastern city of Alexandroupolis. Another major fire also broke out on the outskirts of the Greek capital Athens – torching homes and turning buildings to rubble as it encroached into a national park on Mount Parnitha, one of the last green areas near the historical city.
According to the country’s Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias, 355 wildfires broke out between Friday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, firefighters were tackling 99 blazes including 55 that had broken out in the previous 24 hours, the fire department spokesman Ioannis Artopios said in a press briefing.
Authorities made 140 wildfire-related arrests, including 117 for negligence and 23 for deliberate arson, Artopios said, adding that nearly all were for heat-inducing or agricultural outdoor work.
According to the Greek ministry of Climate Crisis & Civil Protection, the next 24 hours are “very high risk” for the regions of Central Greece and Attica.
On Tuesday, the charred remains of the 18 people, including two children, were recovered near a shack close to a national park in Alexandroupolis. Dimitris Kairidis, Greece’s migration minister, said that the 18 bodies are of refugees. “This tragedy confirms, once again, the dangers of irregular immigration,” he said in a statement.
Two other people died Monday, one in northern and one in central Greece, the authorities said.
The European Union is aiding efforts to help Greece’s plight. In a post on the platform X, the EU said that eight aircrafts, 40 vehicles and 246 firefighters have been deployed from 8 countries under emergency assistance through the EU civil protection mechanism to counter the wildfires in Greece so far.
In addition to man-made fires, winds in the hot and dry weather exacerbated the fires to an unimaginable degree, making the blazes exceptionally difficult to bring under control, authorities said.
Dozens of evacuation orders are underway for villages near Alexandroupolis and Athens, with coast guards deployed to pluck people from beaches and coasts.
“Conditions remain difficult and in many cases extreme,” Artopios said.