Fires continue to rip through Greek island as residents, other countries jump in to help


(NEW YORK) — Greek residents waited out the wildfires through the night on Sunday, after being evacuated on a ferry off the coast of Pefki, a town in the north of Evia.

In a televised address, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that 586 fires broke out in the last few days after temperatures reached 113 degrees in one of the worst heat waves the country has seen in more than three decades.

Firefighters were still struggling to extinguish the blazes Monday on Evia island, one of the hardest-hit areas. Twenty countries, including the U.S., have been sending in firetrucks, reconnaissance support and manpower to Greece, according to Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Greece.

“In response to a request for support from the government of Greece, I am grateful that the U.S. European Command’s Navy component, part of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe, is providing a P-8 aerial reconnaissance aircraft to support firefighting efforts,” Pyatt said in a statement.

Mitsotakis apologized for the “weaknesses” of the fire response, saying the wildfires made “obvious that the climate crisis is knocking on the door of the whole planet.”

“It’s a shame,” one volunteer firefighter told ABC News. “This morning, there was nothing. Now there are two helicopters since 5 p.m.,” the volunteer said, deploring the lack of resources to fight the fires.

On Monday evening, five firefighting trucks and water tankers from Slovakia arrived on the island of Evia to support the local fire brigades.

Hundreds of volunteers are organizing rescue and support for stranded villagers and evacuees.

“If it weren’t for them, the young men … we would have burned,” Gianna Anastasiou, a restaurant owner on Evia island told ABC News. Her village has been cut off for days, without electricity and running water.

A volunteer firefighter and her family saved 12 pets from the fires that tore through Evia, as some were left behind during evacuations.

“This one is a survivor,” 27 year-old Eva Karakassi told ABC News, pointing to one kitten that was rescued from a burning house by a firefighter on Sunday morning.

The pets and their saviors spent the night on the beach, as villages around the island are still in danger from the flames. Over 2,700 residents have been evacuated from the island of Evia, according to the Hellenic coast guard, and the island is under a constant cloud of smoke.

Greek authorities announced that 500 million euros would be spent on these areas.

“It’s not over yet,” Anastasiou said, fighting through tears and thanking the residents from all over Greece for sending supplies to the affected villages.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.