• Saturday, May 28, 2022
  • Last Update : 04:24 pm

Almost 100,000 hectares of forest burned in Greek fires

  • Published at 05:49 pm August 12th, 2021
Greek forest fires approaching the village of Pefki on Evia island
File Photo: A local resident gestures as he holds an empty water hose during an attempt to extinguish forest fires approaching the village of Pefki on Evia island on August 8, 2021 AFP

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis described the recent wildfire ravaged several regions of Greece as ‘a natural disaster of exceptional magnitude’

Nearly 100,000 hectares of forestry and farmland have burned in less than two weeks in Greece in the worst wave of wildfires since 2007, the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mistotakis described the 586 fires that ravaged several regions of Greece in just a few days as "a natural disaster of exceptional magnitude."

More than 93,600 hectares went up in smoke in just 14 days, fuelled by an extraordinary heatwave that struck at the beginning of August, according to AFP calculations based on EFFIS data from July 29 to August 11.

The average burn over the same period between 2008-2020 was 2,330 hectares. 

Also Read: 65 killed in Algerian wildfires

"They are still very destructive today everywhere, and have a rare high level of intensity," according to Mark Parrington of Copernicus, the European Climate Change service, which includes EFFIS.     

The symbolic threshold of 100,000 hectares burned in Greece is expected to be reached on Thursday or Friday, as fires continued to rage on Wednesday in the Peloponnese in the west and the island of Evia in the east.

Evia, Greece's second biggest island, has borne the brunt of the fires, home to more than half the total area burned.

Its thick pine forests, still ablaze on Wednesday, have been largely reduced to ash in the northern part of the island.

While fires were to be expected given the very dry conditions, nothing suggested their dreadful scale, said Charalampos Kontoes, director of the National Observatory in Athens.

“To some extent, fires were expected because of the very dry season," Kontoes told AFP. "But I can tell you that in Greece we never had such big fires. We have fires during hot seasons but not at that size."

Deadly 2007 fires

In all, a total of around 110,000 hectares have gone up in flames this year as of August 11, with over 90% of the damage coming in the last two weeks alone. That's compared to an average of just over 9,000 hectares over the previous 12 years, according to the latest EFFIS figures.

"Our data shows that we didn’t have such intense fires since August 2007," said Parrington.

More than 250,000 hectares of forests and olive groves were burnt in August 2007 in wildfires that killed 77 people.

This year's fires came as Greece suffered its worst heatwave in three decades. For a week, temperatures reached 45°C in several parts of the country, and flirted with a stifling 43°C in the capital Athens.

Experts say there is a clear link between the heatwave and climate change. A draft UN assessment seen by AFP described the Mediterranean as a "climate change hotspot," saying increasing temperatures had lengthened fire seasons.

'Blisteringly clear' climate change links

“The links between climate and wildfire are blisteringly clear in Mediterranean Europe," said Matthew Jones, an expert in climate change at the University of East Anglia in eastern England.

“Since the 1980s, the annual number of days with extreme fire weather conditions has roughly doubled, dramatically increasing the risk of wildfires."

"A lot of agricultural area has also been destroyed," said the National Observatory's Kontoes, adding that this would have a devastating effect on the economy of communities impacted by the fires. 

The land will take "years to regenerate," he said.

The weather offers no immediate respite, according to  Thomas Smith, Professor of Geography at the London School of Economics.

"Unfortunately, EFFIS forecasts suggest that forest fires will persist in Greece until there is significant rainfall -- at least until August 17," Smith said.

"The wildfires will persist until there is some significant rainfall, and it is likely that the situation might worsen before it gets better."

Facebook 50
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail