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Scorched Earth: Greece Forest Fires Now Largest in EU History

A forest area the size of New York City is burning with fires expected to intensify over the coming days.


Thu 31 Aug 23

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Fires in Greece have destroyed an area larger than New York City, with the fires now reported as the largest in EU history.

Overnight (Australian time), the World Wildlife Fund reported that the Greek National Park of Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest has already lost 30 per cent of its forest.

The national park is considered “one of the most important protected areas in Greece and Europe” due to its vast biodiversity.

A breeding ground for flora and fauna species, the protected forests are home to three out of four vulture species and the only breeding population of black Vultures.

For more than 12 days, fires have burned in northeastern Greece, with firefighters from five EU nations battling to contain the flames.

Fuelled by gale-force winds and hot weather, the fire near Alexandroupolis has now spread throughout the Evros region, killing at least 20 people last week in Europe’s deadliest blaze this summer.

According to the EU Copernicus Climate Change Service, fires have now burnt at least 808.7 square kilometres – an area greater than 778.2 square kilometre footprint of New York City.

Summer fires are common in Greece, but the government says extreme weather conditions, which scientists link to climate change, have worsened this year.

So far, 20 people have perished in the fires, with Greek authorities reporting that all but one of the dead are believed to be migrants crossing from Turkey.

The EU’s largest since showed no signs of abating yesterday despite the efforts of a multinational firefighting force on the ground and a fleet of water-dropping aircraft. Footage courtesy of @France24_en.

Authorities fear more bodies may be found when the flames extinguished, as Evros is a popular crossing into the EU for thousands of migrants and refugees every year.

On the ground, aircraft and hundreds of firefighters are battling the flames.

“We are trying to defend the rest of the unaffected area before the front line of the fire comes,” said Jiri Nemcik, commander of the Czech team who, along with Albania, Serbia and Slovakia, is supporting Greece in the forests.

“The development of the fire is very dynamic, so it’s very dangerous.”

Satellite images highlight the extent of the destruction, with swathes of forest virtually flattened and lush pine trees turned into blackened, skeletal bark.

An aerial view of burnt trees in a forest area near the village of Avantas, Alexandroupolis

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chaired a meeting today on the fires that have ravaged Greece, touching on preventative measures among other issues, a statement from his office said.

Environmentalists have accused Greece of spending more on extinguishing fires than prevention.

“We’ve seen in the case of Dadia and the case of the Evros fire in general ‚Ķ, one of the biggest fires in Europe, that a system that relies exclusively on suppression of fires is not working,” Mr Maragou said.

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