Dramatic footage has shown a Greek island engulfed in flames as wildfires continue to rage and sweep away entire villages during the longest heatwave in more than three decades.
People in a passing boat looked back in horror as the hellish sky over the island of Evia, around 100 miles north of Athens, was filled with thick smoke on Wednesday.
Terrified residents were forced to flee over water after multiple infernos raging on the island amalgamated, blocking roads away from the danger and bringing flames closer to their coastal villas.
Now firefighters and water-bombing planes are battling blazes around the villages that remain standing on Evia.
More than a hundred miles to the west, flames have encircled the ancient site of Olympia where the Olympics were held every four years from 776 B.C. for more than a millennium.
‘The country is facing unprecedented environmental crises with multiple fires fuelled by a heat wave entering its second week,’ said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis as he visited Olympia today.
Another significant wildfire is still ripping through forests on the outskirts of Athens, the result of an earlier fire rekindling in the incessant heat which scientists warn is the result of man-made climate change.
Dramatic footage taken from a passing boat shows wildfires raging on the Greek island of Evia, north of Athens. Many residents were forced to flee over the water to escape from the blaze
Footage shows the people looking back at the island as the flames lick around villas which line the beaches
A fire raging on the island of Evia, north of Athens. The inferno has destroyed entire villages
A concerned resident stands on his balcony to watch as flames rise around the ancient site of Olympia on Greece’s Peloponnese peninsula
Smoke rises from a hill by the village of Kourkouli, North Evia, on Wednesday as firefighters continue trying to bring the inferno under control
A photo taken with a drone shows a burnt area after a wildfire in Rovies, Evia island, Greece, on Thursday. The battle with the flames continued for a third consecutive day in north Evia, where various fronts had joined to form three massive fire fronts moving in different directions and moving toward the sea
A helicopter pours water on a wildfire on Thursday near the village of Kechries in North Evia
Smoke rises from a hill by the village of Kourkouli, North Evia, on Thursday (left) and firefighters battling blazes in the same area (right)
A helicopter drops water as fires rage around the village of Kechries in north Evia on Thursday
At least three significant fires were burning, on the island of Evia, in southern Greece and on the outskirts of Athens where a major forest blaze rekindled, and at Olympia where people have been ordered to evacuate. No deaths or severe injuries have been reported, but there has been widespread destruction to buildings and to Greece’s quick-shrinking forests
More difficult days lie ahead, he said, as winds have been predicted to pick up and the heat wave continues.
‘I fully understand the anger, rage, exasperation of people who have seen their property lost,’ Mitsotakis added.
The prime minister said ancient Olympia’s archaeological site and museum had been successfully protected.
Citizens Protection Minister Michalis Chrisochoidis said earlier that firefighters waged ‘an all-night battle’ to save the site.
‘We will continue the battle all day in order to contain all the fronts and extinguish the fire. The conditions are difficult,’ Chrisochoidis said.
Wildfires in the same area in 2007 killed dozens of people but spared Olympia’s ancient sports venues and temples.
The fire department said 174 firefighters, 9 ground teams, 52 vehicles, two water-dropping planes and four helicopters were tackling the blaze, which broke out Wednesday. Evacuation orders were issued for more than a dozen villages.
On the northern fringes of the Greek capital, a forest fire that had been on the wane after burning into a suburb on Tuesday rekindled, sending plumes of thick smoke into the sky, and fire trucks racing to the area, sirens blaring.
The fire in the Athens suburb of Varibobi had damaged dozens of homes and sent thousands fleeing earlier in the week, but had no longer been threatening inhabited areas.
Authorities sent text messages to cellphones in the area urging people to evacuate.
A fire rips through a home in the village of Rovies on the island of Evia on Wednesday
A burnt out car outside a scorched house in the Rovies area of Evia island on Thursday
A water-bombing aircraft pours water on a wildfire near the village of Kechries in North Evia today
A digger works on a road as fire crews build a controlled fire zone to prevent the blaze to reach the village of Kechries
Firefighters douse flames with a hose as they attempt to stop the inferno from reaching the village of Kechries
A drone camera shows the scorched earth and dead trees after a fire ripped through the village of Rovies on the island of Evia
A helpless woman gestures towards her home in the village of Viliza not far from the area of the ancient site of Olympia
A heat wave described as Greece’s worst since 1987 has baked the country for more than a week, sending temperatures spiralling to 45 degrees Celsius (113 F) and creating tinder-dry conditions in shrubland and forests.
Neighbouring countries face similar conditions, fuelling deadly wildfires in Turkey and blazes in Italy and across the Mediterranean region.
Officials in Albania said one person died of smoke inhalation this week near the southern city of Gjirokaster.
In Turkey, a wildfire that reached the compound of a coal-fuelled power plant in the southwest, forcing residents to flee in boats and cars late Wednesday, was contained Thursday after raging for some 11 hours.
Turkey’s worst wildfires in decades have burnt for nine days amid scorching heat, low humidity and constantly shifting strong winds. The fires have so far killed eight people and countless animals.
A European Union disaster response group said firefighters and water-dropping planes were being sent from EU members to Italy, Greece, Albania and North Macedonia.
The EU Atmosphere Monitoring Service said smoke plumes from the region’s wildfires were clearly visible in satellite images, which also showed that the intensity of the wildfires in Turkey was at the highest level since records started in 2003.
A fireman douses flames in Koskinas village in the area of Olympia, Peloponnese
Smoke rises from a hill near the village of Kourkouli, Evia
A local resident watches from his balcony the wildfire in Kourkouloi village on the island of Evia, about 93 miles north of Athens
A wildfire approaches the Olympic Academy in ancient Olympia in western Greece on Wednesday night
Flames engulf the forest near ancient Olympia in western Greece on Wednesday night
Smoke spreads over a beach during a wildfire in Limni village on the island of Evia
Firefighters continue works to extinguish the fire in the area of Greek island of Evia
Greece saw more than 100 wildfires break out over 24 hours from late Tuesday to late Wednesday. Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos said Thursday that the armed forces would expand their role in fire prevention, with ground and air patrols over areas vulnerable to wildfires. The air patrols are being carried out by both manned and unmanned aircraft, he said.
On the island of Evia, a major fire that broke out Tuesday was ravaging forests, leading to the evacuation of villages. More than 160 firefighters, three planes and three helicopters, as well as five ground teams and 57 vehicles were deployed.
France’s civil protection agency said 40 French firefighters and eight tons of material had headed to Greece late Wednesday to assist in the Evia blaze.
Greek scientists said the total destruction in just three days this month in Greece exceeded 50% of the average area burned in the country in previous years.
An Athens Observatory report said an estimated 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) went up in smoke between Sunday and Wednesday, compared to 10,400 hectares in the whole of last year.
The causes of the Greek wildfires were unclear, but authorities say human error and carelessness are most frequently to blame.