Monday, September 25, 2023

Prime Minister Mitsotakis Estimates Over 150,000 Hectares Burned by Greek Wildfires

Greece has experienced one of the worst fire seasons in its history, with devastating wildfires that have burned more than 150,000 hectares of land, killed at least 26 people, and destroyed homes, businesses, and natural habitats.

The fires have been fueled by extreme heatwaves, droughts, and strong winds, which are linked to the climate crisis.

Experts warned that such fires will become more frequent and intense in the future unless urgent action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance fire prevention and suppression.

The impact of the fires on people and nature

(Photo : SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP via Getty Images)

The fires have caused immense human suffering and economic losses. Many residents and tourists had to flee their homes and hotels as the flames approached, sometimes with little or no warning.

Some were trapped by the fire and perished, while others suffered from burns, smoke inhalation, or psychological trauma.

The fires also damaged or destroyed critical infrastructure, such as power lines, water pipes, roads, and telecommunications. The economic cost of the fires is estimated to be in the billions of euros.

The fires have also had a devastating impact on the environment and biodiversity.

They have burned forests, grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural lands, releasing large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and contributing to global warming.

They have also destroyed habitats for many plants and animals, some of which are endangered or endemic to Greece.

For example, the fire in Dadia forest, which is part of the European Natura 2000 network and a refuge for birds of prey, has burned more than 30 percent of its area.

It has also claimed the lives of at least 20 migrants, who were crossing the border from Turkey.

Also Read: Canada’s Wildfires Expose People To Secondhand Smoke; Experts To Check Content of Fumes

The causes and solutions of the fires

The main cause of the fires is the climate crisis, which has increased the frequency and intensity of heatwaves, droughts, and winds in the Mediterranean region.

According to Effis, a European service that monitors forest fires, this summer was one of the worst on record, with fires affecting countries from Tunisia and Algeria to Spain, Italy, and Greece.

Effis coordinator Jesús San-Miguel-Ayanz said that these fires are unprecedented and have never happened in this way before.

The solution to the fire problem is twofold: prevention and suppression. Prevention involves reducing the risk of fire ignition and spread by managing vegetation, creating firebreaks, raising public awareness, enforcing fire regulations, and monitoring fire weather.

Suppression involves enhancing firefighting capacity by investing in personnel, equipment, aircraft, and coordination.

Greece has improved its firefighting capabilities in recent years but still faces challenges such as limited resources, terrain difficulties, and arson.

However, prevention and suppression alone are not enough to address the root cause of the fires: the climate crisis.

To tackle this global challenge, Greece and other countries need to take ambitious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.

This requires a transition to renewable energy sources, energy efficiency measures, sustainable transport systems, circular economy practices, and nature-based solutions.

By doing so, Greece can not only protect itself from future fires but also create new opportunities for green growth and social justice.

Related article: Greece Suffers From Challenging Heat, Wildfires; EU Provides Support, Firefighters

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