Prime Minister issues warning to anyone going to Greece this summer

Prime Minister issues warning to anyone going to Greece this summer

The Prime Minister of Greece has issued a warning for the summer as wildfires ravage parts of the country.

Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Monday the country faced a dangerous summer for wildfires, with a prolonged drought and unusually strong winds contributing to tinderbox conditions.

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country, but hotter, drier and windier weather that scientists link to the effects of climate change has increased their frequency and intensity.

This weekend, dozens of fires broke out across Greece, including two close to the capital, Athens.

Authorities sent emergency messages for some residents to evacuate and others to stay at home and close their windows to protect themselves from smoke.

The first blaze, southeast of Athens, began in early afternoon. Local authorities said it burned at least four homes and several cars. No casualties were reported.

A destroyed home is seen amidst a burnt area after a wildfire at Keratea area, southeast of Athens, Greece (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The blaze was approaching the port of Lavrio about 60 kilometers (37 miles) southeast of Athens. The area has suffered from wildfires in recent years. A small forest to the south, near Cape Sounio, also could be in danger.

A second, fast-moving fire later began north of Athens near the suburb of Stamata. It was burning through scrubland and forest and moving up 1,100-meter (3,600-foot) Mount Penteli, one of four mountains ringing the capital area.

A total of 230 firefighters, 17 planes and 12 helicopters were trying to put out both fires, the Fire Service said. The planes and helicopters can only operate in daylight.

“It is a summer which is expected to be particularly dangerous … the most difficult times are still ahead of us,” Mitsotakis said as he addressed his cabinet.

“We had a very difficult June in terms of weather conditions with high drought and unusually high gusts of wind for the season,” he said, praising firefighters for managing to contain the weekend fires.

Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Mitsotakis said less than 100,000 square metres (24.7 acres) of land had been burned in the two fires, and that the damage was contained due to the response by state emergency authorities.

Greece has scaled up its preparations this year by hiring more staff and increasing training, after forest fires last year forced 19,000 people to flee the island of Rhodes and killed 20 in the north of the country.

“Our arsenal might be stronger, but nothing – and that is seen in practice – beats being prepared, and for the public to also be involved in this collective defence against natural hazards,” Mitsotakis said.