Greece is in a state of emergency after forest fires burning in the Attica region of Greece which encompasses the capital of Athens have to date killed over 80 people and injured almost 200. However, there has also been fierce heat where temperatures have risen above 40C this summer, which would have contributed to the fires’ ferocity at the very least, and climate scientists say we can expect more of this extreme weather due to global warming.
The fire initially broke out near Rafina, northeast of Athens. Aggravated by gale-force winds, it raced through homes and holiday residences in Mati, where most of the victimes were . In the meantime, fire-fighting crews were also engaged in fighting a huge fire west of Athens that had started a few hours earlier.
During the fire, hundreds escaped to nearby beaches to avoid it. Many of them jumped into the sea and spent hours in the water until they were picked up. A considerable amount of the dead were people who drowned.
Although the cause of the fire has not yet been established, the government has now said that it suspects that the blaze was set deliberately, with Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas stating that “A serious piece of information has led to us opening an investigation into possible criminal acts behind the starting of the fire on Monday that ravaged the coastal region of Mati east of Athens.”
In the meantime, Greece’s opposition has accused the government of arrogance and an utter failure to protect lives. The government has defended itself, saying there had been no time to evacuate people because the blaze spread very quickly.
About 300 fire fighters and volunteers are still combing the area for dozens still missing.
The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007, when dozens of people were killed.
Monday 23rd July at 13:00 EET
A wildfire starts west of Athens near Kineta. A few hours later, a second wildfire started burning at the north of Athens near Penteli.
Monday 23rd July at 18:00
The first flames are detected in Mati.
Monday 23rd July at 20:00
The road out of town is jammed with cars full of people fleeing. Several motorists abandon their vehicles and head for the beach on foot.
Tuesday 24th July
Fire teams start to bring the Mati blaze under control. European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management arrives in Athens 24 to coordinate the EU assistance being provided to Greece through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
Thursday 26th July
The Mayor of Penteli, Dimitris Stergiou, says that he supported that the fire may have begun from a damaged cable at a utility pole. The Alternate Minister of Public Order and Citizen Protection Nikos Toskas says that there are strong indications of arson for both the fires in Kineta and Penteli.
Friday 27th July
Greece’s opposition accuses the government of arrogance and failure to protect lives during the fire.