Southeastern Europe is suffering from a historic extreme heat wave, with peaks over 45 degrees, which has sparked forest fires across the region and caused deaths, mass evacuations, destruction of hundreds of homes and thousands of hectares of vegetation. .
The European Commission has mobilized support from several Member States. Cyprus sent two planes to Greece, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands will send two helicopters to Albania, while Slovenia will send 45 firefighters to North Macedonia, in addition to the planes sent by Spain and Croatia to Turkey.
Rescue teams are stretched thin due to scattering floodlights and unflattering weather
Over the past day, 118 fires have broken out in Greece, where, so fortunately there have been no casualties so far, thousands of hectares continue to burn uncontrollably, especially on the island of Euboea and in the Peloponnese.
This Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of people were taken from their homes and hotels, many in boats straight from the beach, on the island of Euboea, where 13 towns were evacuated, hundreds of buildings were burned and three firefighters had to be treated for minor burns.
As local authorities reported this morning, three other towns were evacuated overnight.
Fighting the fire on the island of Euboea is proving particularly difficult because the air assets must interrupt their extinguishing tasks due to the intensity of the smoke which prevents the pilots from seeing. According to an initial report from the municipal authorities, the fire destroyed 150 homes and more than 2,000 hectares on this island.
Authorities are also worried about the blaze fast approaching the archaeological site of ancient Olympia, where the Olympics once took place, near which several houses have already been seen destroyed. Local media reported several people stranded in their homes in this area, although their lives were not in danger.
This Wednesday, in any case, the situation in the suburbs of Athens has improved, where 1,250 hectares and hundreds of buildings have burned down since Tuesday, forcing millions of people to remain locked up in the capital, to avoid breathe in the toxic particles floating there. in the air for hours.
This unprecedented disaster pushes the Greek response capacity to its limits due to the dispersion of the sources and the unflattering weather. After registering a record high of 47.1 degrees on Tuesday, high temperatures are expected to continue at least through the end of the week.
Eight dead in fires in tourist areas of Antalya and Mugla
The fight against the fires continues in Turkey, where in one week more than 170 outbreaks have been declared, the vast majority already extinguished or brought under control, but with still 14 active fronts in seven provinces in the south and east of the country.
Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said a total of 16,000 people had to be evacuated from 3,200 homes in 28 towns.
High temperatures in the eastern Mediterranean have affected these parts of Turkey, with temperatures reaching 44 degrees in the southern city of Antalya and 42 in the tourist town of Marmaris, two of the areas most affected by the fires.
Seven of the eight fire fatalities were recorded in the still-active Manavgat blaze in Antalya and one in Marmaris, Mugla province, where extinguishment work continues with planes sent by the Spain to collaborate. in an emergency situation for which Turkey does not have enough, so it had to rent or order planes from Russia and Ukraine, among others.
Turkish authorities had to evacuate a thermal power plant in Milas, a municipality in the western province of Mugla, due to the progress of the fire. “The flames have reached the power plant (…) which is being completely evacuated and the sirens are sounding,” said the mayor of the city, Muhammed Tokat, on his Twitter account.
This Wednesday morning, thanks to a change in the direction of the wind and the work of the firefighters, the fire has been brought under control for the moment. “The main units of the power plant have not been seriously damaged, according to the initial examination after the evacuation of the installation,” Fahrettin Altun, head of communications for the Turkish presidency, said in a tweet.
The metropolitan mayor of Mugla, Osman Gürün, assured last night that the explosive materials of the thermal power plant had been evacuated, but the coal deposits, which contained around 40 tons, could not be emptied.
Last night the flames caused explosions in the plant’s power lines and it is feared that if the lignite from the deposits burns huge amounts of carbon monoxide will be released. During the night, the inhabitants of ten neighborhoods in the area were evacuated by boats of the Turkish armed forces.
A fire south of Sofia came within 300 meters of a gas pipeline
Also in Bulgaria, where temperatures reach 42 degrees, fires have raged in recent days, destroying large areas of forest, but without causing, for the moment, neither deaths nor injuries.
Although most outbreaks were quickly brought under control, in some cases military units and air force helicopters had to be deployed, such as in the town of Dolno Selo, near the border with North Macedonia. North, where the fire caused by a spark from the power line destroyed 20 empty houses.
Another fire south of the capital, Sofia, came within 300 meters of the gas pipeline that carries fuel to Greece, without damaging the installation.
One dead in fires that were mostly caused
In Albania, a 64-year-old man died when he was caught in the flames in the patio of his house, one of many fires that devastated thousands of hectares of forest.
The most critical situation is now in the south of the country: the Ionian coast, the tourist town of Vlora and in Gjirokastra, near the border with Greece, which the flames crossed this afternoon. The difficulty in extinguishing the flames is due to the rugged terrain and the lack of adequate air assets in the country, for which Albania is eagerly awaiting European assistance.
The fires, mostly arson, have been burning entire areas of forest on the Karaburun peninsula for weeks and, as they progress, they threaten the Pashaliman military naval base and the Llogara natural park in Vlora.
The lack of means, as well as the high temperatures and the wind, complicate the extinction after having declared about fifty fires
In Kosovo, a 57-year-old man died on Wednesday, probably suffocated, in a fire in the village of Novo Selo which has been affected for days by several outbreaks against a backdrop of high temperatures and strong gusts of wind.
Four fires are still active out of the 50 that have been this week. A large part of the fires is attributed to citizen negligence, added to the heat wave and the wind, while the lack of means to extinguish the flames makes the situation difficult.
The Government prohibits traffic in forest areas to contain the dozen fires still active
A dozen fires are active in North Macedonia, of which only two are under control and, although there are several populations at risk, no lives are in danger and no casualties have been recorded so far. The government has banned traffic in forest areas.