Firefighters and aircraft from across Europe and the Middle East were part of a massive effort to quell the wildfires ravaging Greece.
One local official described the infernos as “a biblical catastrophe.”
Crews and equipment from France, Ukraine, Cyprus, Croatia, Sweden, Israel, Romania and Switzerland were helping to battle more than 100 blazes that broke out across Greece, fanned by strong winds amid the country’s worst heat wave in decades, The Associated Press reported. More help was on the way Saturday from Egypt, Spain, the UK and the Czech Republic.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the fires showed “the reality of climate change,” the BBC reported.
Greek Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said firefighters were battling 55 active fires by Saturday afternoon, after crews quelled many of those that ignited over the past few days. Several quickly spread, consuming homes and causing massive ecological damage as they blazed out of control.
“We’re continuing to fight a very big battle. All night our forces worked hard,” Hardalias told The AP.
A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter died after being struck in the head by a falling utility pole. A second man, Konstantinos Michalos, the president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was found unconscious in a factory in Krioneri and was later confirmed dead in the hospital, The Independent reported. And at least 20 people have been treated in hospitals.
Hardalias said he expected a massive blaze north of Athens to be contained within the day Saturday. One of the most severe fires in the country, flames climbed the slopes of Mount Parnitha, a national park north of the capital with some of the last substantial forests near the city, which was blanketed with choking smoke.
Another fire swept through an Athens suburb, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate as flames tore through homes, vehicles and businesses.
Southwest of Athens, a local mayor in the Mani region of the Peloponnese estimated around 70% of her area was destroyed after flames torched Mani, Messinia and ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games.
“It’s a biblical catastrophe. We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT, pleading for more water-dropping aircraft.
Apocalyptic scenes on the forested island of Evia, Greece’s second-biggest, saw tourists and campers flee towering flames and smoke blanketing the hills. Small ferries and other boats evacuated 1,400 people from a seaside village and beaches on the island.
Wildfires are also a problem across Turkey and Russia.
Authorities evacuated residents from some parts of Siberia where several villages were endangered by 93 active forest fires burning across more than 1 million acres, according to the Independent.
In Turkey, flames engulfed a power plant, prompting new evacuations.