August 12, 2023
Greece on ‘high alert’ as country deals with aftermath of widespread wildfires
Aftermath of wildfires in Malti, Greece, taken 2018
Greece remains on ‘high alert’ following rampant fires that tore through its islands in July, which forced thousands to flee in what has been the ‘biggest evacuation’ carried out in the country.
Wildfires in Rhodes led to a state of emergency on the island after relentless blazes in Greece started on July 17 and remained out of control for seven days, triggering large-scale evacuations.
After two weeks, as of July 29, the situation has improved and the fires have managed to be contained, but the risk still remains. Over 1,400 fires erupted in Greece in July, “of which, 10 were large, and we dealt with them with great difficulty and a great deal of effort,” said Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias.
He added: “Unfortunately, the majority were ignited by human hand, either by criminal negligence or intent.”
According to Copernicus Climate Change Service, a service that supports society by providing authoritative information about the past, present and future climate in Europe and the rest of the World, July 2023 was the hottest month on record.
The World Meteorological Organisation reported that these climate changes are related to heatwaves in large parts of Southwestern United States, Mexico, Europe and Asia.
Wildfires have appeared all around the world. Several parts of Europe and North Africa have also been hit by wildfires, including Switzerland, Italy, Turkey, Croatia, Spain and Algeria.
Hundreds of square miles of land outside Athens, on the island of Rhodes, and elsewhere were scorched. On the island of Rhodes, a wildfire whipped on by strong winds triggered a series of massive explosions at an air force ammunition depot in central Greece.
Fires have caused the death of at least five people in Greece, including two firefighting pilots. In addition, the amount of damage has already caused more than the 2022 annual total. Greek authorities are also going to increase penalties for arson at least to 10 times the current level.
The flames consumed trees, burned cars, damaged houses and hotels, and left dead animals on the streets.
More than 20,000 tourists have already evacuated from the island with numerous repatriation flights. This operation was described as the ‘biggest evacuation’ ever carried out in Greece. The islands of Corfu and Evia were also affected with more than 3,000 of people evacuated, while another popular tourist destination – the island of Crete is on high alert.
Those who had to flee wildfires on Greece’s Rhodes island can return for a free week of vacation next spring or fall promised Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Britain’s ITV channel
Currently, Greek travel agents have launched a “Rhodes is safe” campaign to entice back holidaymakers.The prime minister said, “Rhodes today is more welcoming than ever, the island is back to normal.”
The consequences of climate change have made a lot of people very concerned. Professor Christos Zerefos, Greece’s leading expert on atmospheric physics, warned that the situation would get worse every day. He said: “All strategies will have to be reviewed [because of] the climate crisis.”
He predicted that the climate crisis could cost Greece as much as 700 billion euros, and emphasised the importance to the country of rejuvenating the devastated forest ecosystem.
While the situation in Greece is improving, the British government is warning holidaymakers about the possible occurrence of fires in Spain, Balearics. The temperature there remains unusually high for this time of the year and strong winds add to the concerning situation.
Right now the risk of wildfires remains high, says Vassilis Kikilias in an interview during the programme “Ora Ellados”.