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“Human Dam” of Firefighters Hold Back Fire on Greece’s Evia Island

Fire Evia Island
Firefighter on Evia. Credit: Greek Reporter

Residents and tourists in Rovia, on Evia, were told on Wednesday to head to the sea as a “human dam” of firefighters attempted to hold back the fire on Evia Island, just east of Attica.

A huge wall of fire is heading to the area from the north with some flames in the pine forest surrounding the area reaching 20 meters into the sky.

Vessels from the Greek Coast Guard rushed to the area in an effort to evacuate residents and tourists, while private boats were also recruited into the effort at the last minute. Ferryboats are also taking part in the evacuation effort as flames are continuing to spread at what local news media is calling “breakneck speed.”

A total of 85 citizens were safely evacuated by boat through the beach of the village of Rovies. According to the Coast Guard, the citizens boarded not only five boats of the Coast Guard, but also private vessels and then all of the evacuated people boarded the ship PARALOS.

They were then transported safely from the burning beach to the port of Edipsos. According to initial reports, none of the evacuees is facing a serious health problem.

Fire on Evia Island racing through towns, villages, forestland

The flames are covering the land that stretches from the sea to Rovies, causing police to stop traffic.

Firefighters are now literally chasing the flames through the backyards of homes there and trying to save the houses that are throughout the burning area.

Firefighters had lined up in a wall along the main road in Rovies, waiting to battle the flames. More than 20 fire trucks are also lined up on the main road, creating a protection zone for the houses.

There are a total of 95 firefighters, four infantry divisions, four aircraft, a helicopter, construction machinery and water tanks from the local authorities being used to battle the fire on Evia Island while scores of volunteers are currently helping them. Yesterday, the flames burned much of Sepiada and Chronia.

Speaking to, the mayor of Mantoudi, George Tsapourniotis, made a heartbreaking appeal for additional forces. “The situation is very difficult. One third of the municipality is burning at the moment! The means are few. Ten villages have been evacuated and more will be evacuated,” he stated with alarm.

Argyris Liaskos, the Deputy Mayor for Civil Protection of Mantoudi-Limni, also told Newsit “We are trapped in Rovies! We cannot return. We put residents in a ferry boat and sent them to Istiaia. The fire is in Rovies. We have evacuated the area. We and the fire brigade are here, we do what we can. And volunteers together. The situation is tragic.”

The Health Center of Istiaia and the Regional Clinic of Edipsos in Evia, together with the Health Center of Mantoudi and the Hospital of Chalkida, have been put on high alert.

The Mantoudi Health Center has been reinforced with an additional EKAB ambulance and additional portable oxygen cylinders that were transported from the Hospital of Chalkida.

There are reports of firefighters trapped in Kourkoulos, with numbers of villages constantly being evacuated.

In addition to Rovies, fires are burning uncontrollably in the village of Kourkouli and they are now heading towards Skepasti, while the other blaze stopped just before the Monastery of Saint David. Another fire front is in Damia.

The towns of Paleochori and Damia are being tested, as the flames sweep through the villages, while the dense smoke has caused breathing problems to many residents of the village. There have been minor burn injuries to three firefighters and they have been transported to Mantoudi.

Some residents have also taken refuge in the Mantoudi health center.

According to the commander of the 5th RAE, Fotis Seretis, who spoke to AMNA “the health forces in the area have already been strengthened, there is a constant presence of ambulances and their crews, if necessary, deal with any cases, without any serious problems so far.”

These are difficult times for northern Evia, Ilia and Messinia, as this is where the largest blazes are continuing to burn. In an emergency briefing, the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, stated that a total of 118 fires have broken out throughout the country in the last 24 hours.

Hardalias said that 165 firefighters with 58 vehicles are operating in Rovies, while 5 sms have been sent to residents from the government for evacuation of towns and villages. In Ilia, seven fires broke out simultaneously, followed by a continuous evacuation of villages. A great effort is being made to limit the blaze to the Pelopio area.

A forest fire also broke out in the second leg of Halkidiki, where 57 firefighters are operating with 20 vehicles. This fire has thankfully been controlled to a great extent.

Hardalias said that “112 and prevention projects have proved to be our ally,” emphasizing the important contribution of the reinforced air fleet in limiting casualties. He finished,  however, by saying that tomorrow and the next days will be “very difficult” pointing out that “our non-negotiable goal is the protection of human life”.

The battle is now being fought near the village of Kourkouloi, as the fire circled the village and passed it, following a path to the village of Skepasti. According to the governor, Fanis Spanos, “if we can not stop it in broad daylight at this point and according to the conditions that will prevail at night until dawn it can reach the Aegean.”

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