A Greek water-bombing plane crashed on Tuesday while battling a wildfire on the island of Evia, and hundreds of firefighters struggled to contain fires still burning in Rhodes and Corfu.
The Canadair plane crashed into a canyon near the scene of the fire on Sunday, fire officials said. Footage on state TV ERT showed the plane plowing into a tree before falling nose first and exploding.
“A Greek Canadair plane with at least two people on board has crashed near Platanisto,” said Yannis Artopios, a village spokesman in Evia.
At least three aircraft and around 100 firefighters were involved in the battle against the flames at Evia.
The accident comes as Greece battles wildfires on three major fronts, including the tourist islands of Rhodes and Corfu, with many areas of the country listed as at risk of dangerous wildfires due to strong winds.
A CL-415 amphibious-firefighting aircraft with the Hellenic Air Force crashed today while fighting a wildfire on the Greek island of Evia, reportedly causing the immediate death of 2 pilots. pic.twitter.com/Z62f0BLrn3
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) July 25, 2023
The hot weather comes after a weekend of extreme heat as thousands of locals and tourists fled wildfires on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu, with the prime minister warning the heat-ravaged country was “at war” with the flames.
Scientists from the World Climate Attribution Group said on Tuesday that the heat waves that hit parts of Europe and North America this month would have been almost impossible without human-caused climate change.
“We have another difficult summer ahead of us,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told the cabinet.
WWF Greece said on Tuesday that 35,000 hectares (86,500 acres) of forest and other land had burned in the country over the past week.
The national weather forecast EMY says temperatures will reach 41 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit) in the capital Athens and 44 degrees Celsius in central Greece.
Authorities evacuated nearly 2,500 people from the Greek island of Corfu on Monday after tens of thousands of people fled a fire on the island of Rhodes.
More than 260 firefighters, supported by nine planes and two helicopters, are battling the blaze in Rhodes for the eighth consecutive day.
A source at Rhodes airport operators Fraport said conditions had returned to normal on Tuesday, with traffic levels in line with the height of summer in one of Greece’s top travel destinations.
More than 2,100 people were flown home on emergency flights on Sunday and Monday, the Greek Transport Ministry said.
Fires are also raging on Greece’s second-largest island of Evia, where Greek civil protection authorities issued an overnight evacuation order for a northern area.
Mitsotakis said Greece’s state apparatus faced a “huge challenge” due to prolonged heatwaves and persistent forest fires, with officials on 24-hour alert for “several weeks”.
The mercury in Gytheo, southern Peloponnese peninsula, recorded 46.4 degrees Celsius on Sunday, falling short of the national maximum of 48 degrees Celsius.
Mitsotakis warned the country would face “three more difficult days” before forecasting high temperatures to ease from Thursday.
‘Save our home’
A severe heat wave in Greece was reflected in southern Europe and northern Africa.
At least 34 people have died as wildfires raged through populated areas in Algeria, forcing mass evacuations.
Officials in southeastern France raised the highest level of fire alert in the Bouches-du-Rhone region on Monday, warning that weather conditions “have made the risk of flames much higher than in a normal summer.”
In Albania’s capital Tirana, temperatures topped 40C on Tuesday, prompting hospitals to open a string of urgent care centers to treat heat-related illnesses.
Skender Brataj, who oversees Albania’s National Emergency Medical Care Center, said on average more than 100 patients a day flock to each heat center across the country with heat-related illnesses, including blood pressure problems, dizziness and fainting.
Greece’s unusual temperatures have forced major tourist attractions such as the Acropolis in Athens to close during the hottest hours of the day.
Greece’s Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilios said crews had battled more than 500 fires across the country in 12 consecutive days.
Fires can be devastating on islands such as Rhodes and Corfu, where the tourist season is active and hotels are often full.
Volunteers arrived to help foreign tourists north of Rhodes, where about 200 people were still camped out at a school after being evacuated from the fire on Saturday.
“I can’t believe they were so nice, they gave so much in every way,” said Christine Moody, a 69-year-old British tourist who was on her first holiday in Greece when the fire broke out.
“I’m very emotional,” she said.
In the island’s southeast village of Vati, local mayor Vassilis Kalabodakis said the impact on the area was “catastrophic”.
“The village has been ordered to be evacuated, but we cannot leave it,” he said. “We are leading the fight to save our home”.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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