Wildfires reignite near Athens, World Heritage Site dodges close call

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Wildfires have reignited north of Athens as emergency service crews work around the clock across Greece. 

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has blamed the nation’s wildfires on climate change as temperatures continue to soar to a 30-year high of above 40 degrees Celsius.

“If there are even few people who have reservations about whether climate change is real, I call on them to come here and see,” Mitsotakis said from Ilia, where the flames had threatened the World Heritage Site of Ancient Olympia.

“We are dealing with unprecedented conditions as many days of heatwave have turned the whole country into a powder keg,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address.

Wildfires surround the World Heritage Site of Ancient Olympia (Left:Giannis Spyrounis/ilialive.gr via AP) (Right: Reuters)

Ancient Olympia in the western Peloponnese narrowly dodged a wildfire overnight following the area’s mass evacuation and firefighting response. 

Blazes have reignited over the Athens-Thessaloniki motorway and spread to five nearby suburbs and the Malakasa refugee camp. 

The suburbs stretch no more than 45 kilometers north of the country’s capital and include Afidnes, Kryoneri, Kokkinovrahos, Ippokratios Politia, and Drosopigi.  

More than 160 firefighters, three planes, three helicopters, five ground teams and 57 vehicles swooped south to the island of Evia on Tuesday.  

Evacuations have carried out in dozens of towns and villages and houses have been destroyed.

More than 150 wildfires have burned thousands of acres of forest land across Greece since Tuesday. 

Greek scientists say the total destruction in just three days this month in Greece exceeded 50 per cent of the average area burned in the country in previous years. 

An Athens Observatory report says an estimated 6,000 hectares went up in smoke between Sunday and Wednesday, compared to 10,400 hectares in the whole of 2020.  

The fires have not caused any deaths or serious injuries and while the cause of the wildfires remain unclear, authorities say human error and carelessness are most frequently to blame. 

The situation in Greece has prompted international assistance from France, Sweden, and Romania.

Source: Ekathimerini 

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