Violent fires continue this Saturday to devour thousands of hectares of forests and homes in Greece.
And it is a new record in areas burned which is thus broken on the 11th day of this "nightmarish summer", according to the Greek Prime Minister, while the situation seemed to be stabilizing in neighboring Turkey.
On both sides of the Aegean Sea, thousands of inhabitants and tourists have been evacuated in recent days, many by sea, in the face of the advancing flames invigorated by the scorching temperatures.
Eight people died and dozens were hospitalized in the 200 fires that ignited southern Turkey for a week.
Two deaths are to be deplored in Greece, as well as about twenty injured, including two volunteer firefighters hospitalized in critical condition.
Read also Heat wave and fires: why the countries of southern Europe are suffocating
If the situation seemed to be improving under the effect of the rain on the Turkish coast, where 13 fires remained active this Saturday over the last 200 days, the fires were gaining ground in Greece, still fueled in places by the winds.
More than 30,000 hectares have been ravaged by the fires of recent days in Greece, according to the European Forest Fire Information System, an EU-backed body.
At least 1,450 Greek firefighters, aided by reinforcements from other countries, continued their fierce battle against five major fires north of Athens, on the island of Evia, 200 km east of the capital, and against three fires on the Peloponnese peninsula to the west, firefighters say.
The Greek authorities counted 154 fires, 64 of which were still active on Friday evening.
"When this nightmarish summer is over, we will repair all the damage as soon as possible," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised Saturday morning at the Athens fire department.
North of Athens, the violent disaster continued to advance with vigor towards the east and Lake Marathon, the largest water reserve in the capital, after causing the evacuation of a dozen localities.
Its thick fumes and pungent smell had again spread over the capital overnight, as strong winds are forecast for the day.
On the island of Evia, more than 1,300 people were evacuated by boat overnight from the coastal village of Limni, surrounded by flames.
More than twenty others were evacuated Saturday morning from Rovies beach, also on this vast island in the east of the country, according to Greek media.
Evacuations in the village of Limni, on the island of Evia, Greece.
REUTERS / Nicolas Economou NIKOLAS ECONOMOU
Local authorities have called for more air support to effectively tackle the violent Evia fire, which worsened on Saturday.
On the Peloponnese peninsula too, hundreds of hectares were on fire east of the archaeological site of Olympia and in the regions of Mani and Messinia.
"The fire burned more than 15 villages" in the east of Mani, according to the mayor Eleni Drakoulakou, denouncing the lack of air means on ERT TV.
"We were lost when a helicopter would have fixed it in two hours."
Providential rainfalls in Turkey
More than 5,000 residents and tourists were forced to flee the disaster which, she estimates, burned 50% of this mountainous and tourist region.
As of August 5, the areas burned in Greece had already exceeded the average for the period 2008-2020 by 180%, according to data from the European Forest Fire Information System.
And that's without counting the estimates for August 5 and 6, established at more than 15,000 devastated hectares, according to the daily Kathimerini.
At this stage of 2021, the fires have destroyed more forests and pine forests than the three cumulative years from 2017 to 2020, Andrianos Gourbatsis, former head of the Greek fire services, reported on Saturday on the Ethnos website.
The Prime Minister has promised rapid reforestation.
"The burnt areas will be prioritized for reforestation," he told reporters.
A preliminary UN report, to which AFP had access, qualifies the Mediterranean area as a "hot spot of climate change".
The providential rains that fell in southwestern Turkey have helped to improve the situation in the Antalya region.
According to local authorities, the fires are now under control, including in Manavgat, where the downpours continued on Saturday.
Turkish firefighters, however, continued their efforts in the Mugla region, where three neighborhoods were evacuated, according to the municipality.