Greece blaze is 'largest wildfire ever recorded in EU'

AFP , Tuesday 29 Aug 2023

A forest blaze in Greece is "the largest wildfire ever recorded in the EU" and the bloc is mobilising nearly half its firefighting air wing to tackle it, a European Commission spokesman said Tuesday.

Greece Volunteer Firefighters
Volunteer firefighters park their fire truck during a daily routine maintenance, in the northern suburb of Nea Erithrea, Athens, Greece, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2023. AP


Eleven planes and one helicopter from the EU fleet have been sent to help Greece counter fires in the Dadia National Park, north of the city of Alexandroupoli, along with 407 firefighters, spokesman Balazs Ujvari said.

Greece's fire service told AFP that "the fire is still out of control" in the reserve, a major sanctuary for birds of prey. It is raging across a nearly 10-kilometre (six-mile) front.

The EU currently calls on a fleet of 28 aircraft -- 24 water-dumping planes and four helicopters -- supplied by member countries to help battle blazes in the bloc and in nearby neighbours.

It is working on creating a standalone, EU-funded air wing of 12 aircraft that will be fully in place by 2030.

"We do know that fires are getting more severe," Ujvari noted.

"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."

Greece has been ravaged by numerous fires this summer which the government attributes to climate change.

The EU air deployment "underscores our commitment to swift and effective collective action in times of crisis," the EU's commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said.

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