Greece’s Evros region is struggling to control the biggest wildfire the European Union has seen since record-keeping began in 2000, with 407 firefighters and half of the EU’s fleet of 28 firefighting aircraft and helicopters now deployed to quell the flames.
“Since it started on August 19, the blaze has killed 20 [another news report put the count at 21], at least 18 of them migrants and refugees whose bodies were found in a region that is often used as an entry point from neighbouring Turkey,” Al Jazeera reports. “Authorities feared more bodies would be found when the flames were put out, as Evros is a popular crossing into the EU for thousands of migrants and refugees each year.”
Greece “has had a dry stretch the last few months, making the landscape ripe and ready for wildfires,” The Hotshot Wake Up writes. “Multiple fires broke out this month, ravaging the Islands and forcing mass evacuations of resort towns and beaches.”
With those dry conditions as a catalyst, “79 people have been arrested for arson in the country this month,” The Wake Up adds. “Authorities have said they suspect the culprits deliberately set the fires and did so in a coordinated fashion. The location and time of day the fires were set led Greek authorities to believe they started the fires to ‘take advantage of the current conditions’.”
So far, the fire has burned 810 square kilometres, or nearly 200,000 acres, an area larger than New York City. The Greek fire service said the flames are still out of control in Dadia National Park, a major sanctuary for birds of prey.
“We do know that fires are getting more severe,” said EU spokesperson Balazs Ujvari. “If you look at the figures every year in the past years, we are seeing trends which are not necessarily favourable, and that calls for, of course, more capacities at the member states’ level.”