Greece receives EU help to fight fires

Greece receives EU help to fight fires

26 August 2011

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Greece — France, Italy and Spain send five planes to help put out fire in northern Greece.

Planes from three EU member states have joined efforts to fight forest fires in Greece, the European Commission announced today.

France, Italy and Spain this morning sent a total of five water-carrying planes to Greece in response to a formal request made yesterday by the Greek authorities through the EU’s crisis response mechanism.

Albania, which is not a member of the European Union, is also receiving support for its efforts to contain forest fires in the south of the country. An Italian plane is in operation in Albania, from where it will fly to Greece to contribute to the battle to contain the more extensive challenge faced by the Greek authorities.

It is unclear at present how long the planes – two each from France and Spain, and one from Italy – will remain in Greece.

Greece had asked for six planes. Italy, though, is also concerned that high temperatures could pose a risk to its own forests.

Greece asked for support specifically to contain fires in the northern region of Evros, where authorities today declared a state of emergency. The blaze, which is close to the Turkish border, is now in its third day and has forced the evacuation of two villages. It also poses a threat to a national park.

Half a dozen serious wildfires are currently raging in mainland Greece and on a number of islands. Scores of other outbreaks have occurred in the past week, with one, yesterday, putting at risk some houses in a suburb of Athens.

Forest fires are a regular feature of summer life in Greece and Albania. According to a report published in July by Ethiage, a Greek agricultural research institute, and by the environmental group WWF, Greece suffers from 1,465 forest fires in the average year, scorching 52,000 hectares of forest and farm land. Most incidents occur in August, but the most devastating are in July, when temperatures are at their highest.

The worst summer in recent history was in 2007, when 77 people were killed.

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