Smoke blots out the sun in Greece as wildfires rage into their seventh day


Smoke from wildfires consuming Greece‘s second-largest island blotted out the sun on Monday as a blaze which has already destroyed 1,000 homes and half a million acres raged for a seventh consecutive day. 

Such is the extent of the destruction the only way it can be captured in its entirety is from space – with EU weather satellites revealing how fires have scorched their way from one side of Evia island to the other. 

The Evia fire is one of around a dozen currently burning in Greece, which is in the midst of its worst heatwave in 30 years, but is by far the most widespread and severe. 

Hundreds of residents have been forced to flee hellish scenes as hillsides turned to walls of fire, bundled on to boats as smoke filled the air and water-carrying helicopters circled overhead.

Fires burning on the Greek island of Evia have entered their seventh day, with smoke blotting out the sun as locals were forced to flee their homes as they burned to the ground (pictured, a woman evacuates with her dog)

Satellite images have revealed the full extent of the damage, with scorch marks stretching the width of the island as flames raced coast-to-coast through tinder dry woodland

Satellite images have revealed the full extent of the damage, with scorch marks stretching the width of the island as flames raced coast-to-coast through tinder dry woodland

A satellite image shows how woodland was torched around one Greek village which firefighters managed to save, though elsewhere on Evia more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed

A satellite image shows how woodland was torched around one Greek village which firefighters managed to save, though elsewhere on Evia more than 1,000 homes have been destroyed

Huge swathes of countryside on the island of Evia has gone up in smoke as woodland that has been dried out by Greece's most-severe heatwave for 30 years fed flames that have burned for seven days

Huge swathes of countryside on the island of Evia has gone up in smoke as woodland that has been dried out by Greece’s most-severe heatwave for 30 years fed flames that have burned for seven days

A local resident helps firefighters as they try to extinguish flames raging on the island of Evia, with locals in some areas saying they have been abandoned to battle the blazes without help

A local resident helps firefighters as they try to extinguish flames raging on the island of Evia, with locals in some areas saying they have been abandoned to battle the blazes without help

On Evia alone, almost half a million acres of tinder-dry forest has been torched while at least 1,000 homes have been burned to the ground in the village of Mantoudi, Greek news site Protothema reported.

George Stamoulos, deputy mayor of the settlement, said fire crews had been abandoned by the government who ignored his pleas to send aircraft to help fight the flames. ‘[I was] a voice roaring in the desert,’ he said.

It was a sentiment echoed by David Angelou, a local who had to be evacuated from the seaside town of Pefki by ferry as the flames closed in, saying: ‘We were completely forsaken.’

‘There were no fire brigades, there were no vehicles, nothing,’ he added. ‘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.’

Firefighters said there are hopes that Evia’s fire could be brought under control today as flames which have torn across the entire island finally reach the sea and run out of forest to burn.

Giannis Kontzias, mayor of the town of Istiaia, reported: ‘The situation with the fires has started to normalize, since one by one the fronts went out in the sea.’

Heavy smoke from the fires blanketed a market on the island of Evia today (pictured) while also blocking out the sun, turning the sky an eerie orange colour

Heavy smoke from the fires blanketed a market on the island of Evia today (pictured) while also blocking out the sun, turning the sky an eerie orange colour

Hundreds of locals have been evacuated by boat while water-carrying helicopters circle overhead, trying to douse the flames

Hundreds of locals have been evacuated by boat while water-carrying helicopters circle overhead, trying to douse the flames

Residents of Pefki village gather on the nearby beach with their pets as they try to flee the island of Evia, with flames closing in and threatening to destroy their livelihoods

Residents of Pefki village gather on the nearby beach with their pets as they try to flee the island of Evia, with flames closing in and threatening to destroy their livelihoods

An elderly woman, helped by paramedics, disembarks from a ferry after evacuating from the village of Pefki in Greece

An elderly woman, helped by paramedics, disembarks from a ferry after evacuating from the village of Pefki in Greece

But others fear that the crisis is far from over, with Mr Stamoulos warning of the risk of flooding and landslides even once the flames have finally been extinguished.

Landslides often follow in the footsteps of forest fires because plant roots that typically hold the soil together are burned away, leaving the ground unstable and liable to shift.

The risk of flash flooding also increases because the heat from fires bakes the ground in places, causing it to repel rather than absorb water. 

The wildfires have stretched Greece’s firefighting capabilities to the limit, and the government has appealed for help from abroad. 

More than 20 countries in Europe and the Mideast have responded, sending planes, helicopters, vehicles and manpower. 

Greece’s Civil Protection chief, Nikos Hardalias, has stressed that firefighters have been doing everything they can.

Fires have been driven by a heatwave that saw temperatures in Greece soar to 45C (113F), the country’s hottest summer in three decades which scientists warn is being driven by climate change.

A firefighting plane drops water on fires burning near Ellinika, on the island of Evia, on Monday

A firefighting plane drops water on fires burning near Ellinika, on the island of Evia, on Monday

Similar temperatures have been recorded in neighbouring Turkey where fires have also taken hold, with crews still trying to extinguish blazes in five locations in the coastal province of Mugla, in the country’s southwest.

‘The situation is improving,’ Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said late on Sunday. ‘It is too soon to say the fires are under control, but we are reaching that point.’

Meanwhile western Europe has also seen some of its worst flooding in recent years this year, which scientists say is also the result of climate change. 

More than 100 people died across Germany and Belgium after three months of rain fell in just a few hours last month, washing away entire towns and leaving thousands homeless.

Calls to finally tackle climate change after decades of inaction are now gathering pace, with the UN releasing a report today that warns the world is already experiencing the effects – which are set to get steadily worse.

Temperature rises of 1.5C, seen by many as the ‘tipping point’ beyond which damage to the planet become irreversible, are likely to occur a decade earlier than previously though, the report said.

It is ‘unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, oceans and land’. Since 1970, global surface temperatures have risen faster than in any other 50-year period over the past 2,000 years, the authors said.

‘It’s just guaranteed that it’s going to get worse,’ said co-author Linda Mearns, a senior climate scientist at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research. ‘I don’t see any area that is safe… Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.’



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