Greek PM says saving lives top priority as wildfires rage


Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the country is facing an extremely critical situation with multiple raging wildfires, and that his government’s top priority is saving human lives.

“The difficulties are still ahead of us. We have unprecedented conditions as we had 10 days of extreme heatwave that turned the country into a powder keg,” he said in an address on Thursday night broadcast live on public broadcaster ERT.

Wildfires in the north of Athens leapt back to life on Thursday, while there were alsi flare-ups on the island of Evia, in Ancient Olympia, as well as in other parts of the country.

Despite relentless efforts of the firefighters to contain a previous blaze that burnt 1,250 hectares of land on Wednesday, the hard-hit area of Varybobi in the north of Athens again reported a new major fire in the foothills of Parnitha Mount, leading to the evacuation of five settlements nearby.

At least four volunteers who were assisting in the fronts and one firefighter were hospitalised, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

The power supplier warned later of possible scheduled power interruptions in the Attica Region, depending on developments of the fire burning in the area.

Similar scenes were unfolding in the northwestern part of Evia island where the blaze continued to rage since Tuesday. More than 20 villages have been evacuated.

Earlier on Thursday, Mitsotakis visited the fire-stricken regions in Ilia prefecture, including Ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics, where firefighters have been battling to save the well-known archaeological sites.

The fire burning in the area for a second day has led to the evacuation of 32 communities.

“A total of 99 new flare-ups were recorded in Greece today, while authorities had to manage 145 fires in the last 24 hours,” Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias told a press briefing.

To back up the firefighting efforts, Greece deployed in the battle the armed forces with helicopters, aircraft, drones and soldiers.

Apart from Sweden and Cyprus, France, Romania and Switzerland also responded to the activation of EU’s emergency mechanism for disasters, sending ground and aerial aid to help Greece put out the blazes.