Friday, 6 August 2021

Greece is burning

It's the greyest of grey days but this is not England in winter, but Greece in summer with temperatures of 45oC and it's not cloud but dense smoke that covers most of Attica.  It feels like we're under a grey dome that is suffocating us. I look out of the window and I see the trees and neighbouring houses through mist. Nothing is clear, everything is grey, grey. 

This is day three and it's the worst yet. Despite double glazing and a powerful air purifier that's been on continuously for the last three days, today I can smell smoke in the apartment. My throat does the involuntary clearing thing it does when I have asthma and I am coughing.  The authorities are worried about the electricity supply being cut off and a black-out not just in the Attica region but reaching as far as islands like Mykonos, Syros, Paros amongst others. 

I talked about an apocalyptic atmosphere in my previous blogpost and this is what it's like. There is an eerie silence and stillness everwhere. Doors and windows shut. The streets are empty, there is no-one about. 

photo: Louisa Gouliamaki

The wind is picking up as I write, and this will fan the flames and make the fires much more difficult to control.

photo: Michael Papas

The North Athens fire is raging out of control. Flareups of Tuesday's fire in Varybobi have spread to another 11 suburbs in the foothills of Mount Parnitha. Thousands of people were roused from their beds this morning and were evacuated. Residents in Vothonas and Marathon (26 km from Athens) received orders to head to the coast at 5am today as the fire service indicated that the main fire had split up into multiple fronts, spreading in different directions. Today is critical as the country is bracing itself for strong winds that have been forecast in Attica and the rest of Greece. 

A firefighter just passed away having spent the night in hospital: apparently a burning electricity pole fell and injured his head, and in the end the injury proved to be fatal. The cost of these fires is immeasurable: hundreds of people have lost their homes; thousands have been evacuated; thousands have been without electricity; thousands of acres of land have burned; the loss of wildlife must be horrendous even though animal welfare groups have been working tirelessly to save as many animals as they can. It's an ecological disaster.

source of image not known

More than 80 wildfires have been reported around Greece in the last three days. Fires continue to plague the region of Ilia in the Peloponnese, where firefighters have urged residents in 29 areas, including ancient Olympia, to be evacuated.

The fire in Evia, Greece's second biggest island, has already burned nearly 5,000 acres. The blaze continues to burn out of control but this morning it has begun to change course: the blaze is now moving towards the north and northwest of the island, inching dangerously close to the coast. Firefighters are reporting that several roads on the island are no longer passable. I just read on the news that it's completely out of control.

Fires have also broken out in Mani in Lakonia, and in Limogardi in Phiotida.

The disaster in Greece is part of a larger crisis unfolding across countries in the Mediterranean, which have been experiencing extreme heat, prolonged drought and raging wildfires, all hallmarks of the climate crisis. Burning fossil fuels has raised carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to dangerous levels, increasing the odds of extreme heat. That in turn is priming forests for large wildfires, a situation we've seen play out with increasing regularity. 

Are we going to do anything about it?

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