Greek wildfires under control as rainfall, cooler temperatures help firefighters

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Wildfires that have ravaged Greece for over two weeks have been brought under control, a fire brigade spokesman said on Friday.

“Since yesterday, there is no major active front left, just scattered pockets,” the spokesman said. Firefighters were helped over the past two days by rainfalls and cooler temperatures.

But the risk of fires remained very high on Friday in four regions, including Attica, the area around Athens, the Peloponnese and the island of Evia, the Civil Protection Authority warned.

Strong winds are also expected over the weekend, which could quickly spread any fires.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Thursday that the country “can be more optimistic today.”

But he also warned that “we are in the middle of August and we still have difficult days ahead of us.”

More than 580 fires were observed throughout the country since July 27, razing hundreds of houses and businesses to the ground.

Greece’s largest fire broke out on Evia on Aug. 3 and was still smoldering on Thursday, after having destroyed most of the island’s north.

More than 850 firefighters, including hundreds from the Ukraine, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Poland and Moldova, were continuing efforts to prevent flare-ups in the area, assisted by nine helicopters and eight aircraft, including two massive Ilyushin 11-76 water-dropping planes sent by Russia.

The fires which were triggered by scorching temperatures also caused considerable environmental damage with 100,874 hectares of forest and olive groves scorched, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.

Mitsotakis has described the wildfires as “the greatest ecological catastrophe of the last few decades.”

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Other countries around the Mediterranean were also severely hit by wildfires including Turkey, Italy and Algeria.

Experts are unequivocally linking this heatwave to climate disruption as a preliminary UN report calls the Mediterranean a “climate change hot spot”.

Greek authorities have also indicated that some of the fires were likely ignited by arson. Several people have been arrested over the past few days on suspicion of attempting to start fires, including some who are accused of doing so deliberately.

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