Tragedy struck in the form of fast moving forest fires in the Peloponnese region of Greece, many set, allegedly, by arson, and exacerbated, definitely, by climate change, which has led to the deaths of sixty-three people. [Video-ABC, Video-NBC]
ZAHARO, Greece - Massive forest fires swept across and killed at least 37 [sic] people in the south of the country, including several children, the fire department said Saturday. New fires broke out frequently, as embers were carried by the wind.
More than 170 fires raged across the country, from the western Ionian islands to in northwestern Greece and down to the south. At least 25 fires started long after dark, leading authorities to look into arson as a cause.
Thousands have been evacuated while relatives search for the missing. Among those lost were a mother and four children found in a burned car, as was a couple who died while in an embrace. Others perished while fleeing through olive groves and many more have been made homeless and destitute by the loss of residences, businesses, farms and groves.
Greece has called on the European Union for help. Their fire services are overwhelmed, the soldiers been brought in to assist were not trained to fight fires, and the overstretched support services are bracing for more fires that are expected during the next heatwave of 40 degrees c (104F).
The inferno also destroyed fragile mountain ecosystems — that will require decades to revive — and an entire rural way of life, threatening to turn thousands of villagers into environmental refugees.The president of Greece has announced that "the nation is in a state of mourning," and says that "everything must be done to insure that it never happens again."
The BBC's Malcom Brabant referred to Greece's crisis as an "absolutely terrible summer with more than 3,000 [fires] so far that, until now, has been seen as a largely ecological disaster with some of the most beautiful landscapes being destroyed..."