PM: Greece to launch drones, temperature sensors to better fight wildfires

PM: Greece to launch drones, temperature sensors to better fight wildfires

Greece’s prime minister said on Thursday it would launch drones and install forest temperature sensors to improve preventive firefighting after criticism from climate activists over a devastating wildfire burning for almost two weeks.

Summer wildfires are common in the Mediterranean nation but the government has said that extremely dry, windy and hot conditions that scientists link to climate change have made them worse this year, forcing thousands of evacuations.

A wildfire in the northeastern region of Evros, Europe’s deadliest blaze this summer, continued to burn for the 13th day on Thursday after killing at least 20 people, destroying homes and livelihoods and scorching lush forests.

Hundreds of firefighters continued to battle the massive Evros blaze on Thursday, after further overnight evacuations.

“Although we were better prepared than any other year, we faced an unprecedented combination of incidents,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told parliament, citing a severe heatwave in July, Greece’s longest in years, then unusually high winds.

He said authorities had initiated steps to acquire more than 100 drones to monitor wildfires in real time. There are also plans to install temperature sensors at archaeological sites and in high-risk forests, while some 500 forest scientists and 1,000 more firefighters will be hired soon, Mitsotakis said.

Environmentalists who advocate stronger international action to curb climate change have accused Greek authorities of spending more funds on extinguishing fires than on prevention.

Mitsotakis said tens of millions of euros were spent in wildfire prevention this year but that was still not enough.

“Is the climate crisis an alibi for everything? No, it’s not,” he told lawmakers, adding, however, that global warming had helped intensify wildfires that most of the time had been started by human negligence or arson.

In a post on social media platform X, the Copernicus Emergency Management Service said the Evros fire had ravaged at least 812.6 square kilometres (313.8 square miles), larger than New York City’s 778.2 square kilometres (300.5 square miles).

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said at least 30% of Greece’s protected Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest had been lost. Mitsotakis said he would ask European experts to assess the causes of the fire and suggest ways to help the forest grow back. [Reuters]

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