ATHENS - Greek firefighters struggled Friday to contain scores of wildfires stretching nationwide, as the week’s death toll from the raging blazes rose to 21. The Greek fire brigade on Friday said they had found the body of a man in the same area in Evros, northern Greece, where the first victim of the week’s fires had been found Monday.
The bodies of another 19 people believed to be migrants, two of them children, were found in the area earlier this week. The Evros region is a regular entry point for migrants from neighbouring Turkey, and local border guards had warned that more asylum-seekers could have been trapped by the fires that erupted Saturday. An elderly shepherd died in another fire in Boeotia, north of Athens on Monday.
“Greece is experiencing the most difficult year in terms of climate conditions since the start of the collection of meteorological data,” government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said during a regular briefing.
He added that over the last week the fire brigade had to deal with 516 new outbreaks. The Evros front, burning since Saturday, remained the most difficult challenge for firefighters on Friday. “Unfortunately Evros is the most active part of all the fronts we are facing at the moment, and perhaps the most difficult section that we will face today,” fire department spokesman Yiannis Artopios told state television ERT.
LARGEST EU FIRES
The fire was consuming the Dadia forest, one of the major sanctuaries in Europe for birds of prey.
The Alexandroupoli wildfires are now the largest in the EU on record for 2023 and the second largest since 2000, according to the bloc.
But another dangerous fire in Mount Parnitha near Athens had been placed under control, Artopios said. A third large fire was still blazing in Boeotia, but the conditions were improved. Authorities blamed arsonists for the multiple fronts that have emerged simultaneously in the country during the past few days. Artopios said investigations into the arsons now involve the national intelligence service. A 45-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson Thursday.
A very high fire risk is forecast on Friday for central Greece and Athens. Fires had scorched more than 120,000 hectares (nearly 30,000 acres) of land across Greece in 2023 until Wednesday, according to estimates from the National Observatory. This year’s burned land area is three times larger than the average annually since 2006, according to the European Observatory of Forest Fires.