‘Our village is dead’: Fires continue to ravage Evia island, two firefighters in critical condition

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Firefighters and residents battled into the night on Monday for a seventh day against a massive fire on Greece’s second-largest island, as the nation endured what the Prime Minister described as “a natural disaster of unprecedented proportions.”

Smoke and ash from Evia, a rugged island of forests and coves close to the Greek mainland, blocked out the sun and turned the sky orange.

The fire, which began August 3, is the most severe of hundreds in the past week across Greece, gobbling up pristine pine forests as well as homes and businesses and forcing thousands to quickly evacuate by sea to save their lives.

An elderly woman helped by paramedics, disembarks from a ferry which accommodated people, during a wildfire at Pefki village on Evia island. Photo: AP Photo/Petros Karadjias.

“We were completely forsaken. There were no fire brigades, there were no vehicles, nothing!” David Angelou, who had been in the seaside village of Pefki, said on Sunday night after leaving by ferry to the mainland.

“You could feel the enormous heat, there was also a lot of smoke. You could see the sun, a red ball, and then, nothing else around.”

Greek media reported that multiple previously extinguished fires had reignited on Evia on Monday and were moving at speed towards yet more villages and the 7,000-population town of Istaia.

A firefighter and locals rush to a burning house to extinguish forest fires that are approaching Pefki village, Evia. Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP / Getty Images.

“Our main income comes from tourism and now our village is dead. Who wants to have their vacations on a scorched ground?” local Evia resident, Dimitra, told Al Jazeera.

Other big wildfires were still burning Monday in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region as well.

Over the past week, hundreds of homes and businesses have been destroyed or damaged, and at least 40,000 hectares (nearly 100,000 acres) have been burned. Power cuts on Monday affected at least 17,000 households.

Greek firefighting forces have been clearly overwhelmed, prompting two dozen countries to send help. Nine planes, nearly 1,000 firefighters and 200 vehicles have been dispatched to Greece by France, Cyprus, Sweden, Spain, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Serbia and Romania, with Germany, Poland, Austria and Slovakia making further offers to help over the weekend.

Firefighters operate at Ellinika village on Evia island. Photo: AP Photo/Petros Karadjias.

The causes of the blazes are as yet undetermined, though several people have been arrested for alleged arson. Greece’s top prosecutor has ordered an investigation into whether the high number of fires could be linked to criminal activity.

Two volunteer firefighters in critical condition:

The two volunteer firefighters aged 55 and 53, who were rushed to the KAT hospital in Athens on Friday, remained in critical condition on Monday.

According to a medical announcement, the two men have extensive burns and severe respiratory issues and were on mechanical ventilators in the intensive care unit.

Two other volunteer forest firefighters, 57 and 33, who suffered burns to their upper limbs, were being treated in the Plastic Surgery Burns Unit in stable condition.

Moreover, a 32-year-old Israeli firefighter was admitted earlier in the morning yesterday to the ICU at the Sismanogleio Hospital in Athens with an eyelid injury. He was given first aid and returned to the Afidnes area, where a group of firefighters from Israel is operating.

In addition, a 38-year-old man from Ilia was being treated at a hospital in Patra, western Greece after an object got lodged in his eye as he struggled to put out the fires.

Source: AP News, Ekathimerini.

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