As Greece experiences the worst heatwave since the mid-1980s, it grappled on Tuesday with 81 wildfires, the largest of which broke out at 1.25 p.m. in a forest area at the foot of Mount Parnitha in northeast Attica and continued to rage out of control all night.
It spread on three fronts, engulfing the suburbs of Varybobi, Adames and Thrakomakedones, with firefighters and police called in to assist in at least 315 evacuation and rescue operations. Dozens of homes were burned and hundreds of people were evacuated.
In an emergency briefing, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias stated that apart from the big fire in Attica, there were a total of 40 active fronts nationwide.
Firefighters fought blazes for many hours on end in eastern Mani, in the area of Asklipieio on Kos, and in Vasilitsa, Messinia and in Myrtia, Pyrgos.
Wildfires also ripped through Evia, where six villages and settlements were evacuated as a precaution.
Referring to the three main fronts in Adames, Varybobi and Thrakomakedones in Attica, Hardalias stated that the maximum temperature in the area reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit), while the relative humidity was below 10% due to the prolonged heatwave and winds that reached 6 on the Beaufort scale. In total, more than 500 firefighters were deployed in Attica, while according to an announcement by the fire service, five planes and five helicopters were dropping water on the flames.
Three hundred police officers assisted in the evacuation, while six SMS warnings were sent from the emergency number 112.
At least six residents were treated last night at the Sismanogleio Hospital in Athens for mild respiratory problems.
“The times are critical, our country is experiencing one of the worst heatwaves of the last 40 years, we are fighting the battle with concern and priority to save human life,” said Hardalias, while Citizens’ Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis stressed that police, local government and the volunteers were fighting a “superhuman battle.”
Evacuated people were offered rooms in Attica hotels while Hardalias said that artworks from the former royal estate of Tatoi were being transferred as a precaution in cooperation with the Culture Ministry. Owners of equestrian clubs also evacuated dozens of horses as the flames approached.
The blazes also damaged electricity pylons, placing a further strain on the power network that was already under pressure due to widespread use of air conditioning.