Thousands Forced to Flee Greek Seaside Resorts as Wildfires Raged

by Ethan Kim

Seaside resorts outside the Greek capital, Athens, became the epicenter of chaos as wind-fueled wildfires prompted the evacuation of thousands of people, closed major highways, and left vacation homes in ruins. The relentless flames, driven by high winds and exacerbated by scorching temperatures, swiftly consumed the dry scrubland and pine forests in the hilly areas.

In response to the imminent danger, authorities issued evacuation orders for six coastal communities as two large wildfires closed in on popular summer resort towns. With wind gusts reaching speeds of 70 kph (45 mph), the situation grew more precarious.

A joint effort by the army, police special forces, and dedicated volunteers resulted in the rescue of elderly residents from their homes, the safe evacuation of horses from a threatened stable, and the relocation of monks residing in a monastery facing the approaching inferno.

As dusk approached, firefighting aircraft, including water-dropping planes and helicopters, took to the skies to battle the flames near Lagonisi, located approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) southeast of the capital. Meanwhile, a second major wildfire erupted in a wooded area near the resort town of Loutraki, approximately 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Athens. This prompted the evacuation of a children’s summer camp and a rehabilitation center for seniors under the supervision of local officials.

Yiannis Artopios, spokesperson for the Fire Service, acknowledged the challenges posed by the strong and shifting winds, as well as the rugged terrain where the fires originated. He emphasized that the firefighting efforts were being hampered due to the constantly changing conditions, necessitating multiple evacuations.

In response to the crisis, evacuees sought refuge along the coastline or were accommodated in schools and hotels. Additionally, coast guard vessels were dispatched to smoke-filled beachfronts to provide assistance if required.

While attending talks between European Union leaders and counterparts from Latin American and Caribbean countries in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis characterized the wildfires as an “extremely difficult” risk to manage. He acknowledged that while wildfires have always been a part of Greece’s reality, their intensity has been amplified by the effects of the climate crisis.

With the region experiencing the aftermath of a four-day heatwave that slightly eased over the weekend, greater Athens and much of southern Greece remained on the second-highest level of wildfire alert on Monday and Tuesday. The forecast predicted a resurgence of scorching temperatures later in the week.

Residents and visitors in the affected areas were alerted through mobile phone notifications from the Civil Protection Ministry. However, the evacuation efforts faced challenges due to intermittent cell phone reception, hindering communication.

Local officials confirmed the destruction and severe damage inflicted on homes in both fire-affected areas. ___ Reporting from Athens by Gatopoulos.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about wildfires

Q: What caused the wildfires in Greek seaside resorts?

A: The wildfires in Greek seaside resorts were primarily fueled by high winds and dry conditions resulting from days of extreme heat. The combination of wind, parched vegetation, and pine forests contributed to the rapid spread of the fires.

More about wildfires

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TravelAddict July 18, 2023 - 11:25 am

Was planning a trip to Greece, but these wildfires are making me reconsider. Safety first! Thoughts with those affected by this terrible situation.

NatureFanatic July 19, 2023 - 2:15 am

It’s devastating how wildfires are becoming more intense due to the climate crisis. We need to take urgent action to protect our planet and prevent such disasters.


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