Wildfires tear across Greece: Tourists and locals evacuated as firefighters desperately battle blaze

Greek firefighters continued to battle raging wildfires on the island of Lesbos for a second day on Sunday as well as new blazes in the western Peloponnese and in northern Greece, having been forced to evacuate nearby settlements as a heatwave sets in.

A wildfire that started in mountainous forests on Lesbos in the Aegean Sea near Turkey on Saturday and burned properties at the beach resort of Vatera was still blazing away today and prompted the evacuation of two more villages – Vrisa and Stavros.

In mainland Greece a new  also threatened homes at Krestena in the western Peloponnese near to the famous archaeological site of Ancient Olympia, forcing the evacuation of Gryllos village.

‘The flames have encircled Krestena, there are reports of damaged homes, we need help,’ Anastasios Karnaros, a town council member, told Greek broadcaster Open TV.

Temperatures hit 104 Fahrenheit (40 degrees Celsius) in parts of Greece on Sunday as a heatwave that has hit other parts of Europe spread east and was expected to last for most of the coming week, according to meteorologists.

Yesterday, hundreds of tourists were evacuated from a nearby holiday resort on the island of Lesbos as the fire spread and destroyed at least four houses.

Terrifying footage captured from a boat on showed roaring flames tearing through trees along the shoreline, with black smoke billowing into the air and covering the area in a thick haze.

Houses built along the coast could be seen through the haze as the flames closed in, while abandoned deck chairs and parasols lined the deserted beach.

A second video, also from Lesbos, showed firefighters battling flames in a hellish landscape. The firefighters are shown working to put out flames in the dark, with daylight completely blocked by the smoke.

Fire Service spokesman Yannis Artopoios said 125 firefighters and 43 fire engines were tackling the blazes in southern Greece alone, as well as four planes and four helicopters, but the aircraft can’t operate at night. 

Artopoios said 141 wildfires had started in Greece over the past three days.

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Greek firefighters continue to battle raging wildfires on the island of Lesbos for a second day on Sunday as well as new blazes in the western Peloponnese and in northern Greece, having been forced to evacuate nearby settlements as a heatwave sets in

Greek firefighters continue to battle raging wildfires on the island of Lesbos for a second day on Sunday as well as new blazes in the western Peloponnese and in northern Greece, having been forced to evacuate nearby settlements as a heatwave sets in

A firefighting helicopter throws water near the village of Krestena south of Ancient Olympia as authorities evacuate urgently another five villages in the area, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A firefighting helicopter throws water near the village of Krestena south of Ancient Olympia as authorities evacuate urgently another five villages in the area, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A spark lights on a power cable as fire burns near the village of Krestena south of Ancient Olympia, about 200 miles southwest of Athens

A spark lights on a power cable as fire burns near the village of Krestena south of Ancient Olympia, about 200 miles southwest of Athens

Terrifying footage captured from a boat on Saturday showed roaring flames tearing through trees along the shoreline, with black smoke billowing into the air and covering the area in a thick haze

Terrifying footage captured from a boat on Saturday showed roaring flames tearing through trees along the shoreline, with black smoke billowing into the air and covering the area in a thick haze

Terrifying footage (pictured) captured from a boat on Saturday showed roaring flames tearing through trees along the shoreline, with black smoke billowing into the air and covering the area in a thick haze

A second video (pictured), also from Lesbos, showed firefighters battling flames in a hellish landscape. The firefighters are shown working to put out flames in the dark, with daylight completely blocked by the smoke

A second video (pictured), also from Lesbos, showed firefighters battling flames in a hellish landscape. The firefighters are shown working to put out flames in the dark, with daylight completely blocked by the smoke

A second video (pictured), also from Lesbos, showed firefighters battling flames in a hellish landscape. The firefighters are shown working to put out flames in the dark, with daylight completely blocked by the smoke

Residents look at fire burning trees near the houses at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022

Residents look at fire burning trees near the houses at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022

A canadair firefighting plane drops water at the wildfire approaching homes and hotels at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022

A canadair firefighting plane drops water at the wildfire approaching homes and hotels at Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022

Greece is in the grip of a heatwave that began on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days. Temperatures were set to rise to 42 degrees Celsius in some regions

Greece is in the grip of a heatwave that began on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days. Temperatures were set to rise to 42 degrees Celsius in some regions

A Local sprays water as wildfire burns at the village of Vrisa, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A Local sprays water as wildfire burns at the village of Vrisa, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A view of a burnt house following a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A view of a burnt house following a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

Copernicus, The European Union's Earth Observation Programme, said on Sunday that smoke from the fire that broke out on Lesbos was picked up by one of its satellites flying overhead on Saturday

Copernicus, The European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, said on Sunday that smoke from the fire that broke out on Lesbos was picked up by one of its satellites flying overhead on Saturday

The smoke of a wildfire billows as it approaches Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022

The smoke of a wildfire billows as it approaches Vatera coastal resort on the eastern island of Lesbos on July 23, 2022 

The fire on Lesbos broke out at 10am on Saturday, and was blazing on two fronts, heading towards the Vrisa village and another inside Vatera.

As flames progressed towards populated centres on Sunday, hundreds more tourists and residents from the beachside village of Vatera, on the island’s southern side, were forced to evacuate.

Officials then ordered the evacuation of around 200 people on Sunday afternoon from Vryssa village on Lesbos as flames crept closer, some 1,600 feet from houses, the deputy mayor of western Lesbos told Skai radio.

Elderly women carried plastic bags with only a few personal belongings as they boarded the first buses to leave the village. Thick clouds of smoke were already engulfing the first houses of Vryssa. Early in the afternoon, the village of Stavros was also evacuated.  

At least four houses have been destroyed in Vatera, state TV ERT reported, and fires damaged an unknown number of shops, hotels and beach bars in the village. 

Copernicus, The European Union’s Earth Observation Programme, said on Sunday that smoke from the Lesbos fire was picked up by one of its satellites flying overhead on Saturday.  

West Lesbos mayor Taxiarchis Verros ordered the evacuation of the busy beach resort as a precautionary measure, acting on the advice of the fire brigade, Athens News Agency reported. 

He did not provide figures on how many were evacuated but there were several buses and small boats to take people away.

A firefighter helicopter loads water from the sea during a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A firefighter helicopter loads water from the sea during a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A local sprays water as a wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A local sprays water as a wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A local throws water to extinguish a wildfire burning near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A local throws water to extinguish a wildfire burning near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A view of a burnt area, as a wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A view of a burnt area, as a wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A firefighting aircraft flies over a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

View of the interior of a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

View of the interior of a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

Dozens of firefighters early on Sunday clamoured to control the blaze, with four water-dropping planes and two helicopters in operation. 

A wildfire was ablaze for a fourth day in Dadia National Park, known for its black vulture colony, in the northeastern region of Evros. The fire has already destroyed nearly 1,220 acres of woodland.

More than 300 firefighters struggled to control the fire in Evros and late Saturday, the thick smoke forced the evacuation of the village of Dadias. It was not known how many people were evacuated.

‘The most important thing for us is the safety of the villagers and all forces will be deployed there,’ Evros governor Dimitris Petrovits told Athens News Agency.

‘We are dealing with difficult terrain and access with winds changing direction,’ Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianidis, coordinating efforts from the air and on the ground, told state TV ERT.

The fire had already passed the raptor birds observatory and was closing in on the buildings of the protected area management unit. Petrovits said collecting and treating injured animals was a high priority for authorities.

In the Peloponnese, a southern peninsula, a fire that broke out early Saturday forced the evacuation of Chrysokelaria village.

By midday on Sunday, firefighters had managed to contain the fire, which they said was in remission.

A wildfire in mountains near Athens on Wednesday also damaged homes and forced hundreds of people to evacuate after gale-force winds earlier this week. 

View of the interior of a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

View of the interior of a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighting plane flies over wildfire burning near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighting plane flies over wildfire burning near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighting helicopter flies over a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24

A firefighting helicopter flies over a burnt house, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24

A firefighting helicopter filled with water flies over the sea, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighting helicopter filled with water flies over the sea, as wildfire burns near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, July 24, 2022

A firefighter aircraft drops water over a forest fire as smoke rises near Vrisa village, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

A firefighter aircraft drops water over a forest fire as smoke rises near Vrisa village, on the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos, on Sunday, July 24, 2022

Smoke ascends over the village of Vrisa, in the southern part of the Greek island of Lesbos, as the wildfire burn near tourist resorts for the second day, forcing vulnerable residents to flee on July 24, 2022

Smoke ascends over the village of Vrisa, in the southern part of the Greek island of Lesbos, as the wildfire burn near tourist resorts for the second day, forcing vulnerable residents to flee on July 24, 2022

The country’s worst wildfire disaster unfolded in 2018 in the coastal suburb of Mati and claimed 102 lives.

On Saturday, a memorial service was held at the seaside town to commemorate the victims.

The latest fires come after a heatwave and wildfires last year destroyed 103,000 hectares (255,000 acres) and claimed three lives in Greece.

Fires in parts of France, Spain and Portugal have already burned more land so far this year than was destroyed by flames in all of 2021. The area, some 517,881 hectares, is equivalent to the size of Trinidad and Tobago.

The European Union gave Greece’s forest service 72 million euros this year to help maintain forests and clear them to prevent fires from spreading. 

Experts blame climate change for the soaring temperatures – and warned that worse is yet to come. 

The flag of Greece is seen in the foreground as the smoke of the wildfire approaching Vatera coastal resort on Saturday

The flag of Greece is seen in the foreground as the smoke of the wildfire approaching Vatera coastal resort on Saturday

Pictured: A wooden beach bar corridor burns as wildfire rages near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece

Pictured: A wooden beach bar corridor burns as wildfire rages near the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece

Destroyed sunbeds and umbrellas are seen on a beach bar as a wildfire burns at the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos

Destroyed sunbeds and umbrellas are seen on a beach bar as a wildfire burns at the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos

Pictured: Firefighters rest as a wildfire burns at the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on Saturday, July 23

Pictured: Firefighters rest as a wildfire burns at the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on Saturday, July 23

Tourists visit the Acropolis in Athens on July 24, 2022 as a heatwave grips Greece

Tourists visit the Acropolis in Athens on July 24, 2022 as a heatwave grips Greece

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