As Fires Rage in Greece, Residents Forced to Evacuate Villages

Over a thousand firefighters battled wildfires in Greece on Tuesday, as one of the largest raged through a nature reserve on the island of Evia north of Athens, according to The Associated Press and local news outlets.

The fire on Evia caused four villages and a monastery to be evacuated. It has destroyed homes in one of the four villages but has not claimed any victims, The National Herald reported on Tuesday.

Four firefighting planes were being sent from Croatia and Italy to aid in the efforts, said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was reportedly vacationing on the Greek islands before learning about the fires and returning to Athens to visit the fire department's main coordination center.

In an Instagram post written in Greek and translated by Newsweek, he thanked firefighters for their work and said the Greek government's main concern was protecting human life.

Strong winds in Evia and around Greece caused the fires to spread quickly. Fires have been breaking out around the country since early last weekend, according to Greek national news reports.

People took to Twitter to share videos of the winds carrying thick clouds of smoke over the beaches and mountains. Greek video journalist Savvas Karmaniolas posted multiple video clips from Makrimalli, one of the villages affected in Evia.

Το μέτωπο της #πυρκαγιά στο Μακρυμάλλη Εύβοιας τώρα

— Savvas Karmaniolas (@savvaskarma) August 13, 2019

Some of the fires reportedly broke out on the northern island of Thassos, in the town of Thebes outside of Athens and on the southern island of Elafonisos. A big fire that spread quickly on Mount Hymettus, located 18 kilometers east of Athens, was seen from the Greek capital early Monday morning. At least one social media user posted a photo of the blaze from what she said was around 5:30am local time.

5:30 AM and I can't sleep. This is the view from my balcony. 20min away from my place. #fire #athens #πυρκαγιά #υμηττο

— Vanillaburp Studio (@Vanillaburp) August 12, 2019

Forest fires are common in Greece during the summer months, which are typically characterized by a hot, dry climate. Last year, more than 100 people died when a fast-moving forest fire broke out in the seaside village of Mati, located northeast of Athens. The fire trapped people in their cars and reached people on foot as they attempted to flee. Others drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches engulfed in fire.

The Guardian reported that earlier this year, prosecutors investigated the fires and detailed "a series of mistakes" made by the authorities. The report said that mismanagement by police and fire services, i.e., a lack of coordination between rescue agencies, led to "chaos and a collapse of the system... criminal mistakes and omissions.

Stock photo: A wildfire burning. iStock