Official warns the worst is yet to come

Heat, dryness, high winds make it difficult to contain blazes; help keeps arriving from abroad

Official warns the worst is yet to come

Wildfires are burning large tracts of forest and farmland in Attica and neighboring regions for the third day in a row, while another two major blazes, on the island of Rhodes and near the southern town of Sparta, flared up Wednesday.

Despite the expected arrival of firefighters from the EU and Israel on Thursday, authorities are not optimistic that the blazes will be contained soon.

“The worst is yet to come,” a government official told Kathimerini, “especially during the weekend, with temperatures reaching 45 degrees and humidity below 14%, whatever lies on the ground is flammable material,” the official added.

The European Union is rushing in reinforcements: Besides the three firefighting units from Bulgaria, Romania and Malta already operational in Greece and the four water-dropping planes from France and Italy, teams from Poland, Romania and Slovakia, a total of 220 firefighters and 65 engines, were scheduled to arrive Thursday.

Israel will also send two firefighting planes to help.

“Greece is a friend that needs our help and we will gather the means to assist her! The relationship between Israel and Greece can be counted on in difficult times and Israel does not stand by apathetically,” Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said on social media.

“In coordination with our Ministry of National Security, the National Fire and Rescue Authority, the Israel Police, the Israeli Air Force, firefighting aircraft and teams of professionals will arrive to help combat the fires in Greece,” he added.

More evacuations were ordered Wednesday in the town of Mandra, 25 kilometers west of Athens, and in many localities along the highway that links Athens to Corinth, to the west. Three villages were also evacuated on Rhodes.

For a second day, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was briefed on the situation at the Civil Protection operations center. Mitsotakis cut a short a trip to Brussels Monday as the severity of the situation became apparent. He refrained from commenting on the situation, with close aides saying he was against making a show of it.

Minister of State Akis Skertsos said in a radio interview Wednesday that the government planned to spend 2 billion euros on equipment for the Fire Service.

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