In a remote village in northeastern Greece, where wildfires have been rampaging for several days, the fire brigade reported the discovery of eighteen charred bodies on Tuesday. This unfortunate event coincided with a heatwave that led to red alerts being issued throughout southern Europe, culminating in deadly consequences.
Firefighters are presently probing whether the bodies, located near a makeshift shelter south of the village of Avantas, could belong to migrants. The Evros region surrounding it is a well-known passage for migrants from Asia and the Middle East, who cross from Turkey.
Spain, Italy, and Portugal witnessed firefighters battling fierce blazes while the region grappled with hot, parched, and windy conditions, which scientific experts have linked to climate change.
Forecasters predicted that temperatures across numerous parts of the region would hit or surpass 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit). Italy and France declared red alerts for multiple areas.
This new wave of heat follows a July that entered the record books as the hottest month ever. In mid-July, around 20,000 individuals were evacuated from Greece’s Rhodes island due to wildfires, and Spain’s La Palma experienced a severe fire.
Earlier this month, blazes on Hawaii’s Maui island led to over 110 casualties. This week, Canada deployed its military to tackle rapidly spreading fires in British Columbia.
Greece’s firefighting efforts were further hindered by gale-force winds. Vassilis Varthakogiannis, a spokesperson for the Fire Service, stated, “The weather conditions are extreme and are expected to remain so for the next few days,” during an interview with ERT TV.
On Tuesday, Greece received assistance from Romania, dispatching 56 firefighters, and more help was anticipated from the Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, and Sweden in Athens.
The bodies of the 18 victims were discovered south of the village of Avantas near the expansive Dadia forest, according to authorities. Another body, believed to be of a migrant, was found around 40 km (25 miles) away in a rural area on Monday.
In the port town of Alexandroupolis, near Avantas, wildfires necessitated the evacuation of numerous hospital patients, including newborns. A ferry was transformed into an impromptu hospital after 65 patients were relocated from the University Hospital.
Nurse Nikos Gioktsidis commented, “I’ve been working for 27 years, I’ve never seen anything like this. Stretchers everywhere, patients here, IV drips there … it was like a war, like a bomb had exploded.”
Fires also erupted near Athens on Tuesday. A blaze on the outskirts of the city, in the foothills of Mount Parnitha, destroyed homes and forced residents to evacuate.
In Spain, where most of the nation faced a very high or extreme wildfire risk during the fourth heatwave of the summer, authorities struggled to control a massive wildfire that has ravaged forests on Tenerife island for a week. The blaze has consumed 15,000 hectares across twelve municipalities and led to the evacuation of thousands.
In France, four southern regions – Rhone, Drome, Ardeche, and Haute-Loire – were placed under a red alert, the most serious warning in the country. Due to high temperatures, climbers were advised to postpone scaling Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe.
Grape-pickers in the wine-producing regions of southern France were instructed to begin harvesting early in the morning to avoid toiling in the scorching heatwave of late summer. Temperatures were anticipated to peak at 42°C in the Rhone valley over the next 48 hours.