Firefighters battle Greece wildfires as farms and factories burn

Blazes have been raging in the country amid scorching temperatures, forcing mass evacuations in several tourist spots including on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu

By Reuters

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Injured cows are seen inside a burning farm as a wildfire burns in Sesklo in central Greece on Wednesday. — Reuters
Injured cows are seen inside a burning farm as a wildfire burns in Sesklo in central Greece on Wednesday. — Reuters

Published: Thu 27 Jul 2023, 2:21 PM

Last updated: Thu 27 Jul 2023, 4:40 PM

Firefighters in Greece battled flames burning for the 10th day on the island of Rhodes, while new blazes erupted on the mainland that destroyed farms and factories overnight and left farmers rushing to evacuate their animals.

A young man runs next to a burning farm in Sesklo, in central Greece. — Reuters
A young man runs next to a burning farm in Sesklo, in central Greece. — Reuters

The blazes across the country, which have been supercharged by strong winds and temperatures exceeding 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), killed a further two people in central Greece on Wednesday, taking the death toll from the fires to five.


Officials ordered the evacuation of several communities in the hard-hit area of Magnesia, a coastal area north of Athens.

A man stands next to his car as a wildfire burns at the industrial zone of the city of Volos, in central Greece. — Reuters
A man stands next to his car as a wildfire burns at the industrial zone of the city of Volos, in central Greece. — Reuters

The body of a 45-year old shepherd was found in a rural area on Wednesday evening, the fire brigade said. Earlier, authorities had found the body of a woman, state TV ERT said. Both deaths were attributed to the fires.


In Sesklo, a village near the coastal port city of Volos, the regional capital, the charred remains of a cow could be seen on a farm as locals coached away other cattle.

The reains of a burnt out house following wildfire near the industrial zone of the central Greek city of Volos on Thursday.  — AFP
The reains of a burnt out house following wildfire near the industrial zone of the central Greek city of Volos on Thursday. — AFP

"It started from the grass on various fronts in the area and we got to this situation from the lack of public authority, of regional governors, mayors, to burn half of Magnesia," farmer Kostas Koukouvinos said.

Late on Wednesday flames threatened the industrial zone of the city of Volos. Firefighters circled the area as they tried to protect it, a Reuters witness said.

The labour ministry urged employers in the area to suspend operations on Thursday.

A separate wildfire flared near the city of Lamia, south of Volos. Residents of several settlements were told to leave their homes.

Firefighters were also tackling a new blaze near the town of Kymi on the island of Evia, where two pilots were killed on Tuesday when their plane crashed into a hillside as it was dropping water onto the flames.

Large areas of the Mediterranean have sweltered under an intense summer heatwave in recent days, and firefighters have been battling to put out blazes across the region, from Portugal to Sicily to Algeria.

An aerial view of railway tracks in a burned area near the city of Volos on Thursday. — Reuters
An aerial view of railway tracks in a burned area near the city of Volos on Thursday. — Reuters

Wildfires are frequent in Greece during the summer but higher temperatures as well as dryer weather which scientists attribute to climate change have turned the country into a Mediterranean hotspot. The fire brigade said more that 500 wildfires have burned in Greece so far this year.

Sheep are placed in a football field as wildfires destroyed local farms, near the industrial zone of the central Greek city of Volos on Thursday.  — AFP
Sheep are placed in a football field as wildfires destroyed local farms, near the industrial zone of the central Greek city of Volos on Thursday. — AFP

On Rhodes, where more than 20,000 foreign visitors and locals fled seaside hotels and homes over the weekend, fires were beginning to abate.

The risk of fire remained "extreme" for several areas of Greece on Thursday, the fire brigade said.

The shell of a tortoise lies on the charred ground near the village of Loutses on the Greek island of Corfu on Thursday. — AFP
The shell of a tortoise lies on the charred ground near the village of Loutses on the Greek island of Corfu on Thursday. — AFP

Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias said Greece was experiencing "very dangerous summer days." The fires, he said, were fanned by strong winds and worsened by abnormally high temperatures, kindling fronts stretching for several kilometres.

"Given the climate crisis, we will again have extreme weather conditions that will again test our strength. Nothing is over, the battle will continue throughout the summer," he said.



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