ATHENS: Fireworks launched from a yacht set off a new wildfire on an island near Athens as the country confronts a new season of deadly summer fires, authorities said.

The mayor of the island of Hydra expressed “outrage” after the fire was started late on Friday and vowed legal action against those responsible. Dozens of wildfires this week have left at least one dead already.

The latest blaze was “caused by fireworks launched from a boat and burned the only pine forest on the island in a place that is difficult to access and has no road,” Hydra’s firefighting team said on Facebook.

Another fire raged on Saturday on the island of Andros, emergency services said. Four villages were evacuated and planes and helicopters were brought in to water bomb the flames.

Greece has toughened penalties for arson, with perpetrators now facing up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to €200,000.

On top of calling for legal action against “irresponsible” people, Hydra’s Mayor Giorgos Koukoudakis told the ERT public broadcaster that authorities had to create more anti-fire zones and roads through forests.

Greece has been bracing for a difficult summer as authorities warned that strong winds and high temperatures meant there was a “very high risk” of forest fires.

The Mediterranean country recorded its first heatwave of the year last week, with temperatures rising above 44° Celsius in some locations.

Firefighters on Friday battled wildfires fanned by three days of fierce winds that left at least one person dead. Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.

Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world. Rising temperatures are leading to extended wildfire seasons and increasing the area burned by the blazes, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Published in Dawn, June 23rd, 2024

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