New Delhi: The wildfire in Greece that has been blazing for days now is the largest wildfire ever recorded in the European Union (EU), a European Commission spokesperson said on Tuesday, reported news agency AFP. According to the spokesperson, the bloc is mobilising nearly half its firefighting air wing to tackle the forest blaze.
For the past 11 days, fire crews have been battling the flames in northeastern Greece which have killed at least 20 people and posed an “ecological disaster”.
Spokesman Balazs Ujvari said that the EU has sent eleven planes and one helicopter from its fleet to help Greece counter the fire, north of the city of Alexandroupoli, along with 407 firefighters, according to AFP.
The civil protection service of the EU said that the fire had burned more than 810 sq km – an area bigger than New York City. “This wildfire is the largest in the EU since 2000, when the European Forest Fire Information System (Effis) began recording data,” the service said.
Greece’s fire service told AFP that the blaze was “still out of control” in the northeast region’s Dadia National Park, a major sanctuary for birds of prey.
Since its outbreak on August 19, the bodies of 20 people have been found, 18 of them migrants including two children that were discovered in a region often used as an entry point from neighbouring Turkey.
The EU currently calls on a fleet of 28 aircraft, comprising 24 water-dumping planes and four helicopters, supplied by member countries to help battle blazes in the bloc and in nearby neighbours.
It is working on creating a standalone, EU-funded air wing of 12 aircraft that will be fully in place by 2030.
“We do know that fires are getting more severe,” Ujvari said. “If you look at the figures every year in the past years, we are seeing trends which are not necessarily favourable, and that calls for of course more capacities at the member states’ level.”
This summer, Greece has been severely affected by numerous fires, a situation attributed by both the government and experts to the climate crisis.
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