The devastating fires on the Greek island of Evia have caused unfathomable destruction and pain to thousands of people in tens of villages and towns.
The tragically heroic story of Konstantinos Pantazis, who is a resident of the coastal town of Limni, sums up the magnitude of the catastrophe that struck.
In an exclusive interview with Greek Reporter, Pantazis spoke about his experience in the hours from Friday afternoon to Saturday morning.
It was almost certain that his home was going to be among the hundredths of others that have already been destroyed completely on Evia and elsewhere in Greece.
However, Pantazis chose to stay behind and fight the fires to save anything that could be saved.
”The evacuation order came through at around 7-7:30 PM. People went to the beach and waited for the ferry boat. I stayed behind. I would never leave my property. Never,” he said with determination.
Pantazis defied the order and stayed behind despite Greek authorities discouraging people to do so. When asked if he got scared for his life, he showed remarkable calmness.
”I was not going to be burned,” he said, despite the dangerous decision he took.
”If things went South, I’d rush to the beach, I’d be there in a matter of seconds, I knew what I was doing,” he explained.
Pantazis recorded his efforts in a series of videos he posted live on his personal account on Facebook.
What he saw and what we saw was hellish.
The entire town of Limni was surrounded by fire. Roads, alleyways, and streets were blocked by the devastating force of the fire.
Houses, businesses, and properties were being destroyed in front of the eyes of Pantazis.
”I was on my own,” he recalls. ”I knew the fire was going to come, so I had to act. I started pouring water around my house and around the houses of my neighbors in a radius of approximately 20 to 30 meters,” he explains.
Pantazis kept doing this for approximately four hours. He was then joined by two more residents whose properties were nearby.
”I wanted to make the ground as wet as possible so that the fire would not be able to reach our houses,” he says.
Pantazis Saved his House
His efforts bore fruit: his house did not burn. This was the main motive that kept him going all night long. He had to save his house. There was no alternative for him.
However, Pantazis couldn’t be happy about the fortunate result. ”There are people who lost their homes, their businesses or both,” he says in pain for the destruction his hometown endured.
”I know a business with motorbikes up on the road, it got burned completely. Another business with cars had the same fate. One of these guys lost his home too, it’s unbelievable,” he says.
”I couldn’t help them all, I just couldn’t,” Pantazis says with disappointment.
It’s still unclear how many properties were destroyed in Limni, however, Pantazis says that there are quite a few.
”Not many, but there are definitely homes and businesses that have been burned completely,” he explains.
No Fire Brigade to Be Seen around Limni on Evia during fire
Pantazis painted a grim picture in terms of the support he and his neighbors received from the state: ”Nothing, no one, nothing at all. We were all by ourselves: No aircraft, no helicopters, no firefighters, nothing, just us, the volunteers.”
The days before the fire reached Limni, Pantazis was helping out in the nearby villages.
”I was bringing fresh water to the firefighters when I realized that the coordination was non-existent,” he says.
”All of the firefighters here came from elsewhere in Greece. No one knows the area. They were asking me where to go, there was no guidance from above whatsoever,” Pantazis explained.
Support the Evia fire victims: Gofundme.com/f/help-evia-greece
When asked why he thinks this is the case, he plainly said that he doesn’t know.
”I’m telling you what I saw. No firefighters whatsoever. I kept saying from Tuesday that the situation is going to be so bad, that the fire will only stop when it reaches the Aegean Sea, and look. That’s what finally happened,” he noted.
Pantazis did not talk about the future. He doesn’t know what will happen, how his hometown is going to recover. What he knows, though, is that this was not the first time that Evia was burned, and it probably won’t be the last.
”We had a major wildfire in 2016. Kyriakos Mitsotakis (the current Greek PM) came here to visit us. You see, he was the leader of the opposition back then. Alexis Tsipras (the then PM) didn’t.”
This year the exact opposite happened.
”Tsipras, who’s now the leader of the opposition rushed to see the situation. Mitsotakis didn’t. The same things happen over and over again. I wish they didn’t think we’re stupid,” he says with bitterness.
The devastating fires that have been raging across the north on the island of Evia in Greece are yet to be put out.
The fire front that entered the town of Limni on the northwestern part of the island, caused chaos and destruction.
Among the settlements that saw the wildfires returning on Friday night were those of Metohi, Zoodochos Pigi, Kalyvia, Spathari, Troupi, Prokopi, Rovies, Marouli, Kokkinomilia, Kryoneritis, and Tsapournia.
People near the villages of Elliniko, Avgaria, Galatsona, and Monokarya were also affected by the fires, fortunately though without having to evacuate their homes.