EU water bombers join Greek firemen to douse island wildfire

ATHENS (AFP) – Greece deployed yesterday nearly 400 firefighters backed by European Union (EU) firebombers to try to put out a massive wildfire on the island of Evia burning through a pristine pine forest for a third day.

“We are more optimistic today because the winds have died down,” Civil Protection Supervisor for Evia Yiorgos Kostopoulos told state TV ERT.

Firefighters managed to contain the fire in a ravine near the village of Platana, backed by nearly 100 vehicles, nine helicopters and 12 planes, including two from Italy and one from Spain.

“We are doing whatever we can to create additional fire defences near the village,” Kostopoulos said as an earth mover dug a trench behind him.

The wildfire has caused inestimable damage to the local 550-hectare mountain wildlife sanctuary of Agrilitsa.

Local community head Dimitris Yiannoutsos told web TV Open there was “total destruction” in the forest but admitted that with the fire still active, officials were “unable to fully estimate the extent of the damage”.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday on Greece’s second-largest island, prompting the evacuation of four villages including Platana.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides on Wednesday called the mobilisation of Greek forces “exemplary” after emergency crews managed to save inhabited areas.

A helicopter over a wildfire in Makrymalli village on the Greek island of Evia. PHOTO: AP