Firefighting plane crashes in Greece as wildfires rage

Published July 26, 2023
A FIREFIGHTING aircraft drops water over a wildfire near the village of Vati  in the Greek island of Rhodes, on Tuesday. Some 30,000 people have fled Rhodes, making it the country’s largest-ever wildfire evacuation.—AFP
A FIREFIGHTING aircraft drops water over a wildfire near the village of Vati in the Greek island of Rhodes, on Tuesday. Some 30,000 people have fled Rhodes, making it the country’s largest-ever wildfire evacuation.—AFP

RHODES: A Greek water-bombing plane crashed on Tuesday while battling a forest fire on the island of Evia as hundreds of firefighters struggled to beat back blazes still raging in Rhodes and Corfu amid a new wave of soaring temperatures.

The fire department said the Canadair aircraft crashed into a ravine close to where the fire started some three days ago.

Footage on state TV ERT showed the plane clipping a tree before falling nose-first and exploding.

The plane was among at least three other aircraft and around a hundred firefighters in the fight against the flames on Evia.

Heatwave scorches Mediterranean region

The accident occurred as Greece battled wildfires on three major fronts, including the tourist islands of Rhodes and Corfu, with many of the country’s regions listed at extreme risk of dangerous forest fires exacerbated by strong winds.

The very hot weather comes after a weekend of intense heat as thousands of locals and tourists fled forest fires on the Greek islands of Rhodes and Corfu, with the prime minister warning the heat-battered nation is “at war” with the flames.

WWF Greece on Tuesday said 35,000 hectares (86,500 acres) of forest and other land had been scorched by fire in the country just in the past week.

Authorities evacuated nearly 2,500 people from the Greek island of Corfu on Monday, after tens of thousands of people had already fled blazes on the island of Rhodes, with many frightened tourists scrambling to get home on evacuation flights.

More than 260 firefighters were still battling flames, supported by nine planes and two helicopters.

The Greek transport ministry said over 2,100 people had flown home on emergency flights on Sunday and Monday.

Fires were also raging on Greece’s second-largest island of Evia, where Greek civil protection authorities issued an overnight evacuation order in one northern locality.

The PM has warned that the country faced “another three difficult days ahead” before high temperatures are forecast to ease from Thursday.

Mediterranean region

The severe heatwave in Greece has also been reflected across much of southern Europe and Northern Africa.

In Algeria, at least 34 people have died as wildfires raged through residential areas, forcing evacuations.

In southeastern France, officials on Monday issued a fire warning at the highest level in the Bouches-du-Rhone region, warning that the weather conditions make the risk of flames “very high compared to normal summers”.

In Albania’s capital Tirana, temperatures surpassed 40 degrees Celsius on Tuesday, spurring hospitals to open a string of emergency care centres to treat the patients.

On average more than 100 patients a day have been flocking to each heat centre across the country, with ailments linked to the spike in temperatures including blood pressure issues, dizziness, and fainting, said Skender Brataj, who oversees the national centre for emergency medical care in Albania.

Also, Turkish firefighters battled a wildfire near the resort of Kemer in the southern province of Antalya on Tuesday, tackling the blaze from land and air amid high temperatures across the region.

Ten planes, 22 helicopters and more than 200 vehicles were deployed in the firefighting efforts, with some 120 hectares of woodland burned in the Kemer area, Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy said.

Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2023

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