Greece has been dealing with massive wildfires this summer that have ravaged the country, causing significant damage and loss of life. The high temperatures in the region have made it difficult to control the fire, and the government has requested assistance from other European countries, such as firefighters and firefighting planes. Upon injuries and casualties, the wildfire has forced thousands of locals and tourists to evacuate the areas affected.
The devastating wildfires in Greece have sparked a heated debate about the future of the country. Many are wondering whether the blazes were caused by climate change or arson, and what steps can be taken to prevent similar tragedies.
What to Know About Greece’s Wildfires
In late July 2023, there were initial sightings of fire activity in the Greek islands of Rhodes, located southeast from the Greek mainland. Videos of the incident began to circulate on the internet as thousands of people were evacuated from towns and villages. Firefighters worked tirelessly to combat 82 wildfires that occurred. Around that time, wildfires erupted in Corfu, Evia, and the Peloponnese region.
In late August, a new wave of fires erupted after the initial blaze had been brought under control. These fires were located in Alexandroupoli, with the forest in Dadia National Park being particularly hard-hit. This forest is home to many birds of prey, making it a major sanctuary.
The fire raged for over ten days, with more than 400 firefighters, ten firefighting planes, and a helicopter working tirelessly to bring it under control. The extreme heat, dehydration, asthma, and smoke inhalation posed a significant danger to the firefighters and survivors affected by the wildfires.
According to the EU's civil protection service, the recent fire in Alexandroupoli burned over 810 square kilometers (310 square miles) of land, which is larger than the area of New York City. The European Commission has reported that this is the largest wildfire to occur in the EU since 2000.
The widespread wildfires in Greece have caused more than 20 deaths, over 75 injuries, and forced over 20,000 locals and tourists to evacuate.
Climate Change or Arson
Over 500 fires have been spreading throughout Greece, and the cause of their ignition is a topic of concern among many.
According to government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis, 163 people have been arrested in connection to the fires, including charges of negligence and arson. Locals have also suggested that illegal migrants may be responsible for the blazes.
While summer fires are typical in Greece, experts say increasing temperatures and drier weather are transforming the country into a Mediterranean hotspot for climate change. Studies revealed that changes in the climate increase heat and dryness, leading to longer and more severe wildfire seasons. Human-induced climate change has caused elevated temperatures and aridity, intensifying the dryness of forest fuels during these periods of fire.
However, Greece's Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, stated that climate change cannot be used as an excuse. "Our country ought to take more steps ... to be ready to mitigate, as much as possible, the effects of a reality that we are already starting to feel, and that could have dramatic effects on many different aspects of our economic and social life," he said.
Greek officials are still investigating the cause of the fires.
On September 4, the arrival of Storm Daniels brought a new danger to the people of Greece.
Flooding occurred in central and western Greece as a result of heavy rain. As "thigh-high torrents" pour through the streets, washing cars away, deaths and missing individuals are frequently reported.
Prime Minister Mitsotakis blamed the fires and floods on climate change. He said, “I am afraid that the careless summers, as we knew them … will cease to exist and from now on the coming summers are likely to be ever more difficult."
Edited by: Anwen Venn
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