Thousands of people have fled wildfires that are destroying vast swathes of pine forest and razing homes on Greece’s second-largest island, Evia, as devastating summer blazes rage from southern Europe to Siberia. Wildfires have devastated large areas in southern Europe for a fortnight as the region endures its most extreme heatwave in three decades. Ten have died in Greece and Turkey.
Thousands of people fled wildfires burning out of control in Greece and Turkey on Friday, including a major blaze just north of the Greek capital of Athens that left one person dead, as a protracted heat wave turned forests into tinderboxes and flames threatened populated areas, electricity installations and historic sites. Firefighters across Greece were battling 56 active wildfires, Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said.
Conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was being sworn in as Greece’s new prime minister Monday, a day after his resounding win over left-wing Alexis Tsipras, who led the country through the tumultuous final years of its international bailouts. Europe’s finance ministers are meeting in Brussels on Monday and will be discussing Greece, which still has stringent fiscal targets to meet even though it no longer directly receives bailout loans.
More than 12,000 people are in need of emergency shelter after fires tore through Greece’s largest refugee camp. The blazes broke out after midnight at the overcrowded Moria camp, which was originally meant to house about 2,000, on the island of Lesbos. The site was “probably totally destroyed”, according to a migration ministry official who said the government was struggling to find alternative shelter for the migrants gathered on streets outside.
Police on the Greek island of Lesbos are moving thousands of migrants and refugees from the fire-gutted Moria camp to a new tent city nearby. Seventy female officers in protective suits were flown in to organize the transfer of women and children to the temporary Kara Tepe camp. On Wednesday four Afghan asylum seekers were charged with starting the fire that destroyed Moria last week.
Migrants on the Greek islands are to be offered €2,000 (£1,764) per person to go home under a voluntary scheme launched by the European Union in an attempt to ease desperate conditions in camps. The amount is more than five times the usual sum offered to migrants to help them rebuild their lives in their country of origin. The offer will last one month.
More than 60 people have been hurt, many of them riot police, in clashes with protesters on Lesbos and Chios over plans to build new migrant camps. Stones were hurled at police as protests intensified at three Lesbos sites where the centers are to be built. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has called for calm and is due to meet the regional governor and local mayors to discuss the crisis.
Six foreigners including two children were killed and more than 100 other people injured when a violent, short-lived storm lashed northern Greece overnight, felling trees and ripping off rooftops. Witnesses reported the storm had come and gone in a matter of minutes. Winds of over 100 kph (60 mph) were reported on the Halkidiki peninsula, popular with tourists in the summer.
Greece’s Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas announced there are ‘serious indications’ that the fire that killed at least 83 people near Athens this week was started deliberately. The government said inspections yielded ‘significant findings of criminal activity concerning arson.’ More than 15 fires broke out on Monday resulting in an unprecedented challenge for firefighters.
Leaders of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn, the country’s third most popular party in parliament during the debt crisis, were guilty of running a criminal group, a Greek appeals court ruled on Wednesday. Golden Dawn entered parliament for the first time in 2012 on the back of an anti-austerity and anti-immigrant agenda, becoming Greece’s third-most popular party at the peak of its worst financial crisis since World War Two.