'Biblical catastrophe': Terrifying video of wildfire ferry evacuation

·4-min read

A terrifying video has emerged from Greece where three large wildfires are burning across the country.

One was threatening whole towns and cutting a line across Evia, the country's second-largest island, isolating its northern part.

Others engulfed forested mountainsides and skirted ancient sites, leaving behind a trail of destruction that one official described as "a biblical catastrophe".

More than 1000 people were evacuated from the island of Evia, about 160 km north of Athens, on Friday (local time) via ferry. 

They were among thousands who were forced to flee by land or sea in Greece and Turkey.

In shocking footage shared on Twitter by a Greek weather agency, hundreds of people are seen on board a ferry, taking them to safety off Evia, as the fire rages nearby, turning the sky a bright orange.

The other dangerous fires were one in Greece's southern Peloponnese peninsula, near Ancient Olympia and one in Fokida, in the Central Greece region, north of Athens.

The fire in Ancient Olympia moved east, away from the ancient site, threatening villages in a sudden flare-up on Saturday afternoon.

Wildfires have been burning in Greece and Turkey amid the worst heatwaves the countries have seen in more than 30 years. 

A person is carried in a chair onto a ferry during evacuations in Evia.
One fire was threatening whole towns and cutting a line across Greece's Evia, the country's second-largest island. Source: AP Photo
A crowd of people board a ferry taking them off Evia, Greece.
More than 1000 people were evacuated from the island of Evia. Source: AP

The fires have destroyed homes and businesses, with residents forced to flee the deadly flames. 

Two people have died in Greece and 20 have been injured, while eight people have been killed in Turkey.

Images and videos shared online show thousands of people waiting desperately for transport from Evia as the blaze continued to burn in the background. 

A Coast Guard spokeswoman told The Associated Press 10 ships were waiting to help evacuate more people if needed, with the flames limiting how emergency services could reach the island.

Emergency crews have struggled to contain the fires as they faced winds and high temperatures of 40C or above all week.

More than 700 firefighters are fighting to contain the spread of the flames, with firefighters from Cyprus, France and Israel deployed to help Greek firefighters.

A woman carries a baby as people evacuate from Evia during a wildfire.
People evacuate by ferry from the island of Evia, about 160 kilometres north of Athens. Source: AP

Greek wildfires are 'biblical catastrophe'

One volunteer firefighter died on Friday and at least 20 people have been treated in hospitals in the past week during Greece's most intense heatwave in three decades. Temperatures soared up to 45C.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Saturday visited the fire department's headquarters in Athens and expressed his "deep sadness" for the firefighter's death.

Securing aid for everyone affected by the wildfires would be "my first political priority", he said, promising all burnt areas would be reforested.

A local official in the Mani area of southern Peloponnese estimated the wildfire there had destroyed about 70 per cent of her area.

"It's a biblical catastrophe. We're talking about three-quarters of the municipality," East Mani Deputy Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT, pleading for more water-dropping aircraft.

British firefighters sent to help

Specialist fire teams from Merseyside, Lancashire, South Wales, London and West Midlands in the UK have been deployed to Athens over the weekend to help fight the blazes.

"The UK Fire and Rescue Service (FRS) will be offering support to our colleagues in Greece, along with their communities who need assistance during these devastating wildfires," National Fire Chiefs Council chairman Mark Hardingham said.

"NFCC's national resilience function is in place to deploy both in the UK and overseas – and the team is highly skilled at responding to extreme events such as these.

"We can offer professional and technical skills to our fire family in Greece at a time when help is needed; it is ingrained in the professional nature of FRS staff to assist."

with AP

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