Greece: Varybobi Fire Spreading East and North, Out of Control

Transportation changes as Varybobi fire spreads towards national highwayATHENS — Three more areas were being evacuated after the wide spread of the fire in Varybobi eastwards from Mt. Parnitha on Thursday evening.

Kryoneri, Kokkinovrachos and Afidnes just received an order to evacuate, while Ippokratios Politia and Drossopigi had been evacuated earlier. Residents were warned through 112 European emergency number messages.

The three areas' residents are asked to head toward the Athens-Lamia national road, while Ippokratios Politia were asked to head to Oropos.

Fires have reached Kryoneri and Drossopigi already, north and east of Varybobi respectively, while also heading to Katsimidi and Kokkinovrahos further north.

Firefighters are relying on help by air, as very high temperatures have made it very difficult for ground forces to remain at the fire front. Ten helicopters and 7 airplanes are operating until nightfall. The Russian Beriev airplane is out of operation because it needs maintenance, and will resume on Friday. Another two Swedish aircraft arriving through the RescEU emergency assistance program have been grounded in Poland because of the weather.

Police has stopped traffic on all roads leading to the region.

Meanwhile, the Independent Power Transmission Operator (IPTO) warned on Thursday evening of possible scheduled power interruptions in the Attica Region, depending on developments of the fire burning in the area.

IPTO said that the fire has taken out two networks that supply the extra high voltage center of Agios Stefanos, east of Kryoneri, which is one of the key electricity suppliers in Attica.

The power transmission operator explained that it had worked with the Hellenic Electricity Distribution Network Operator (HEDNO) to draw up a precautionary protection system for the transmission system, and this would incorporate targeted and rolling interruptions of power to households. HEDNO would issue an announcement ahead of time, IPTO said.

Firefighters are focused on preventing the spread of the fire, which has already burned a large swathe of the forest in the past few days. If it crosses over to the other side of Parnitha mountain, it will threaten Ippokratios Politia, which has been evacuated already.

Fire Brigade officials said that the power of the flames have created local wind channels that spread the fire faster.

Transportation changes as Varybobi fire spreads towards national highway

Announcements of train service suspensions and national highway shutdowns were announced late on Thursday as a fire on Parnitha mountain and Varybobi spread out of control east and north.

Trains between Inoi and Athina are suspended, following relevant orders, TrainOSE announced on Thursday.

Passengers of trains numbered 57, 1559 and 885 will be transported to Athens by bus, as long as circumstances allow it, the company said.

On national highway AThE (Athens-Thessaloniki-Evzoni), the section from Kaliftakis junction to Inofita junction has been shut.

Nea Odos managers said that it was following police orders. Drivers heading to Lamis must exit at Kaliftakis exit, and those heading to Athens must exit at Inofyta exit.

In addition, the tolls on the side road of Inofita will not be collecting fees.

As additional support arrived from Greece’s military and European Union countries, water-dropping planes and helicopters swooped over blazes near the capital, on the island of Evia and near Ancient Olympia to the south.

“The country is facing an unprecedented environmental crisis, with multiple large fires,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after visiting the site where the Olympics were held in antiquity every four years from 776 B.C. for more than a millennium. More than a dozen villages were evacuated in the area.

The EU Commissioner for the environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius, said the fires and extreme weather globally over the summer were a clear signal for the need to address climate change.

“We are fighting some of the worst wildfires we’ve seen in decades. But this summer’s floods, heatwaves and forest fires can become our new normality,” he wrote in a tweet.

“We must ask ourselves: Is this the world we want to live in? We need immediate actions for nature before it’s too late.”

The EU bolstered assistance to fire-stricken countries, sending 40 French firefighters and eight tons of material to help Greece.

Greece’s Civil Protection Agency said the risk of fires across southern Greece would increase further Friday, with windy weather forecast for parts of the country, despite an expected slight dip in temperatures that reached 45 C (113 F) earlier this week. The heat wave was described as Greece’s worst since 1987.

On the island of Evia, a major fire that broke out Tuesday was ravaging forests, leading to the evacuation of villages and a camping site, sending people fleeing in cars and by sea. More than 160 firefighters, three planes and three helicopters, as well as five ground teams and 57 vehicles, were deployed.

The fires have not caused any deaths or serious injuries. But Greek scientists said the total destruction in just three days this month in Greece exceeded 50% of the average area burned in the country in previous years. An Athens Observatory report said an estimated 6,000 hectares (14,800 acres) went up in smoke between Sunday and Wednesday, compared to 10,400 hectares in the whole of last year.

The causes of the Greek wildfires were unclear, but authorities say human error and carelessness are most frequently to blame.

However, arson was suspected in the blaze near ancient Olympia, with officials noting that seven fires broke out in quick succession in the region on Wednesday.

The mayor of the local town of Pyrgos, Panagiotis Antonakopoulos, told Open TV that one person had been spotted moving suspiciously in nearby woodland on a motorbike, stopping every so often and a fire breaking out shortly after his stops. The person, he said, had not yet been arrested.


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