Mayor optimistic inferno can be held back from Greek island hub
Avgariá (Grèce) (AFP) –
A key town will likely be spared from a week-long inferno consuming so much of the Greek island of Evia partly because water-bombing helicopters have finally fully entered the battle, the local mayor said.
Istiaia Mayor Yiannis Kontzias told public television ERT that he was "optimistic" the fire can be prevented reaching his town of several thousand people, now a focal point of southern European fires that have underscored global alarm about climate change.
"We have managed to control this front because we doused it both from the land and air" on Monday, Kontzias said from the nearby village of Kamatriades.
He later added that this particular front was under control -- but others nearby remained active.
"Helicopters helped a lot and if we had done that since the beginning, we would have avoided all this destruction," the mayor said.
He was echoing a complaint widely uttered about the lack of air support not just on Evia but throughout Greece as hundreds of fires broke out during an intense heat wave in the last two weeks.
- PM Mitsotakis apologises -
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday apologised to the nation and vowed to punish those responsible.
"I apologise for any shortcomings" in the state response, Mitsotakis said in a televised address.
"We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough," he said.
Firefighters and islanders alike have battled the flames for the last week on Evia, a rugged and forested island just 200 kilometres northeast of Athens.
The fire jumped a fire break created late Monday in Avgaria, a village close to Istiaia, the ANA press agency said. But the village did not suffer major damage.
Other fire breaks were established in the villages of villages de Kamaria and Kastaniotissa, ANA reported.
The fire department late on Monday said that over 650 firefighters were still deployed in Evia, including forces from Ukraine, Romania and Serbia.
Hundreds of homes have been lost in Evia, greater Athens, the Peloponnese and other parts of Greece in wildfires that have been raging almost without pause since late July.
There was still concern Tuesday about three separate fires in the Peloponnese peninsula, where villages were still without electricity and water according to local officials.
Over 400 firefighters were active in the area, including reinforcements from the Czech Republic and Britain.
EU states and other countries have so far contributed 21 aircraft, 250 vehicles and over 1,200 firefighters, some of whom were expected between Tuesday and Friday, the civil protection authority said.
© 2021 AFP