Ηundreds of foreign fire-fighters have poured into Greece after wildfires swept through the country in the past week destroying properties and rich forests.
Countries from Europe, the Middle East and the Balkans have sent fire-fighters, vehicles, and aircraft to assist the Mediterranean country, including France, Germany, Spain, Egypt, Qatar, Ukraine, Serbia, Romania, Slovakia, Poland, Switzerland, Russia, Cyprus, Germany, Czech Republic, and Britain.
The forces participated in operations in three regions of the country, Evia, Attica, and the Peloponnese. On Wednesday flare-ups remained in Evia island and in the regions of Ilia and Arcadia in the Peloponnese, where villages were being preventively evacuated.
French fire-fighters have been tackling a large front on the island of Evia and in the Peloponnese regions with a team of 139 fire-fighters and 38 vehicles, while 12 pilots and 3 planes are conducting operations from the Elefsina military air force base outside Athens, where all the water dropping aircraft have based their operations.
“We see many villages with many flames all around the houses… its very difficult for all the people to leave the villages so we protect as we can the villages by dropping along the houses to protect the evacuation of the people. So at this time it was a miracle because nobody was injured,” said veteran fire-fighting pilot Nicolas Dauber, who says pilots have been working ten hour rotating shifts since they arrived on August 6.
“The fire is so huge that we can’t stop it so we must go for the most urgent…the human beings.” he said.
Some 21 British fire-fighters, who arrived on August 8, are working in the regions of Ilia and Arcadia. Team Commander Tony Brown said the teams were working in difficult, steep and wild mountainous forest terrain, making it hard to surround the fires, and the scope was to reduce the fronts to as small areas as possible in order to bring them under control and prevent them from re-igniting. Every day the winds pick up, he said, and efforts depended on the change in weather conditions.
German fire-fighters were also operating in the Peloponnese region of Ilia with 57 fire-fighters and 18 vehicles.
A 75 strong team from Slovakia with 30 vehicles arrived in Evia on Tuesday and set to work with Greek fire-fighters to contain the blaze there.
“It’s a huge fire it’s not easy to get it under control. We are doing our best,” said Slovak firefighting team leader Peter Kovalik.
At the onset of the fires a week ago the United States navy sent a aerial reconnaissance aircraft to support firefighting efforts from the U.S. European Command’s Navy component, part of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe. Russia has sent an Ilyushin Il-76 water bombing plane and helicopters.
More than 90,000 hectares of land have burned since the fires erupted a week ago in Greece, on the back of a prolonged heatwave that created tinderbox conditions. The fires have claimed only one casualty, a firefighting volunteer struck by a falling electricity pylon near Athens.