Disastrous wildfires are demolishing Greece: “A burning ship with no captain.”

Image+by%3A+NASA

Image by: NASA

Eva Koureta, Staff Writer

In the last month of summer, Greece was placed in a devastating situation as citizens were trying to defeat the ginormous wildfires caused by the intolerable temperature of August. While doing everything they could to defend their lives and properties from the massive fires, the government actions were merely not enough to help the situation.

As if the summer of 2021 wasn’t catastrophic enough because of the pandemic, Greece has dealt not only with COVID-19 precautions but also with disastrous waves of wildfires that covered most of the northeastern part of Greece. However, this isn’t the first time that Greek citizens have been face-to-face with conflagration. 

In 2019, massive waves of fire damaged and destroyed hundreds of acres and took a terrible toll on wildlife. This year, the August heat reached an unbearable 47.1C (116.8 F), fueling unbeatable fires that destroyed 120,000 acres of forest, cost millions of euros in economic loss and led to the evacuation of numerous coastal villages and outlying islands, as it was reported by “protothema.gr”. Unfortunately, Greece wasn’t the only Balkan-European country that was affected by the intolerable heat. Turkey and Italy were also affected, since the strong winds helped the fire travel quickly and spread around to neighboring countries.  

As a proud Greek-American who watched these tragic events unfold from afar, I can’t help but wonder where the government was when my native country was in flames. While I live in the United States, I stay connected to my roots and informed on the most current news and topics in my home country. When I heard another massive wave of flames was threatening Greece, the most immediate questions that came to my mind were: What is the government doing about it? And how is the government acting?

Sadly enough, I discovered the government is nowhere to be found, and fire fighters, volunteers, celebrities and modest people are doing everything they can to stop the fires without necessary and expected help from the government. While I live overseas and don’t have a local perspective, I have done enough research to know this is a recurring problem that the government seems unwilling or unable to solve.

On Aug. 3, one of the hottest days of summer, Euboea, the second largest island of Greece, was roasting under the incessantly hot sun when wildfires quickly began spreading. The 191,000 citizens of Euboea faced the fire with their own “weapons,” using buckets and water hoses to battle the flames. Firefighters and volunteers across the country did their best to help, but unfortunately the weather conditions and the strong winds were too much for them to handle, causing the fires to spread rapidly across other areas of the Attica peninsula.

When the situation was far out of control, and many people were already injured and suffering, the Prime Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis,  said the government was doing everything they could to stop the fires and help those in need, emphasizing that everything was under control. However, it seems that almost nothing was under control. 

While the government of Greece was paralyzed with indecision over Euboea, the actions of volunteers donating their money, time and energy ultimately saved the island’s residents.When numerous trucks with donations and necessities from all around the country tried to cross the toll lines to get to Euboea, they were stopped by toll services because they could not or would not pay the toll fee (11,30 euros). Perhaps collecting an overly priced toll fee is more important than helping citizens who are fighting on the first line with the pyrini kolasi, or flaming hell.

 After Euboea, next in the burning line of fire was Macedonia, Epirus, Athens, Peloponnesus and Crete. By this time, Greek firefighters were desperate and helpless and had requested more firefighting aircraft, but the government failed to provide them.

After days battling the flames without rest, many volunteer firefighters ended up falling asleep on the streets as they were taking breaks, illustrated in the picture from “protothema.gr”, and once again the government was unable to help. Luckily for Greece, help came from neighboring countries. According to “crisismonitor.gr”, Romania sent 112 fire fighters along with 23 fire trucks. Cyprus provided 40 firefighters and two aircraft. France sent 83 firemen and two Canadair. Sweden donated two aircraft, and Switzerland offered three helicopters.

The help from these neighboring countries is undeniably what Greece needed to finally start to gain control over these wildfires. The lack of government efficiency has made the situation even worse. Nevertheless, Greece has finally stopped the spread of the fires. This fight isn’t over yet, but everyone is hoping that with much-needed help from other countries, and more rain, Greece will eventually defeat these devastating wildfires. Let’s hope that next summer Prometheus will be able to control his fire and not burn his creations.

If you are a Greek-American student, let me know how you feel about the August wildfires.