Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Greece is burning .... again

(photo by Manos Fragioudakis, from here )

Today is the fourth day that firefighters have been battling fires that have been raging northeast of Athens. The fire started in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km (30 miles) from the capital. It has spread to three more towns, damaging dozens of homes and burning thousands of hectares of pine forest. A state of emergency has been declared in the area and some towns have been evacuated.

(photo from here )

It is proving very difficult to put the fires out, as the high winds keep changing direction and on Tuesday Greece had to ask for help from its European partners.

The whole of Athens is covered in a cloud of smoke. Satellite pictures show that the smoke has reached Crete and has moved on to the Libyan sea.

The effects of the fire are felt here even though we are 30 miles away. For the last three days our terrace has been covered with a thin layer of ash, and everything smells of burning. If you are an asthma sufferer, like I am, it's terrible: my chest is incredibly tight, and last night, I had a three-hour long coughing fit that prevented me from sleeping, despite the fact that we had all the doors and windows shut. Today, I am trapped in the house, so I am writing this post, frequently interrupted by fits of coughing.

(photograph from here )

The toll on firefighters is horrendous. This photograph of an exhausted firefighter has gone viral in Greece, an illustration of  the courage, bravery and stamina of these professionals that keep Greece going in the summers.

(photograph by Petros Gianakouris from here )

Water-carrying planes and helicopters are an essential tool for fighting fires in the summer.

So, why do these fires happen? Some are wildfires, but a lot are a result of arson carried out by arsonists who are paid by big business and developers who want to build on the land that has been destroyed. But, surely, legislation could solve this problem? you may ask. Indeed! All that is required is legislation that prohibits building on land (fields, pastures, forests) that has been destroyed by fire. The corrupt and incompetent Greek State cannot even resolve this.


But this is not all. The fire in Attika is one of 90 forest fires that have broken out in Greece in the last four days. The Peloponnese, the islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia are also burning. A state of emergency has been declared in Zakynthos where 14 active fire fronts exist at the moment. Arson seems a certainty as 9 different fires erupted in one place, with four of these breaking out very close to each other at midnight. Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis said: 'it's arson following an organised plan. There is no doubt about it'

The environmental cost is immeasurable, not least for all the wildlife that is destroyed. This photograph of a firefighter rescuing a small bird has also gone viral.

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