The captain and co-pilot of a firefighting airplane in Greece were both killed when their aircraft crashed on the island of Evia while it was trying to put out a blaze, the air force said.
Flight Lt. Christos Moulas, 34, and Second Lt. Periklis Stefanidis, 27, were on board the water-dousing aircraft which belonged to the 355 Tactical Transport Squadron, part of the 112 Combat Wing at Elefsina Air Base.
The airplane crashed at 14:52, according to the press release.
Greece’s Armed Forces have declared a three-day mourning period (July 25-27) for the loss of lives of two Air Force officers while executing their duty, by order of National Defense Minister Nikos Dendias.
The following video captures the tragic moment when the aircraft appears to hit the top of a tree, lose control, and crash.
— Guru (@Bilots_Bet) July 25, 2023
Fire-fighting aircraft fighting wildfires
Local resident Tasos Dugias told iefimerida: “Since this morning a pair of Canadair has been operating. The fire was in a very difficult place and they were forced to make dangerous maneuvers to “hit” the fire.
“The pilots were picking the planes up at the last minute. I wasn’t there at the time of the plane crash, but I saw what efforts they made during the day.”
The wildfire in Evia is raging near the villages of Platanistos and Potami. A message was sent via emergency number 112 to the residents of Platanistos to evacuate the area.
Wildfires continue to burn in Greece
Several wildfires are raging in Greece as a third heatwave is moving in with temperatures forecast to climb to 44°C (111.2°F) on Tuesday and Wednesday in several parts of the country.
The wildfires continue to burn on the islands of Rhodes and Corfu.
On Rhodes, in the southeastern Aegean, the weeklong blaze that has prompted massive evacuations, including thousands of tourists, picked up overnight in the areas of Gennadi and Vati in the southeast.
Authorities have called on people in Plimmiri and Lachania, two southern Rhodes villages, to evacuate in the direction of Apolakkia due to wildfires in the area in a message sent via the emergency number 112.
The fire continues to burn in Corfu where, according to the fire department, there were flare-ups in the area of Palaia Perithia.
Emergency 112 evacuation messages were also sent to people in the Corfiot villages of Siki and Imerolia, who were told to make their way to Kassiopi port, while the residents of Loutses were ordered to evacuate to Acharavi.
Strong ground forces and four aircraft and a helicopter are scrambling to put out the fires, and they are expected to be reinforced with more airplanes.
Meanwhile, Greek authorities have issued a warning of an extreme risk of fire (risk category 5) for the island of Crete and the islands of southern Aegean, including Rhodes.
Risk category 4 has been issued for the following areas:
– Central Greece
– North Aegean (Samos, Ikaria)
– South Aegean (Karpathos, Kalymnos, Kos)
– Thessaly (Larissa, Magnesia)
– Crete (Chania)
– The Peloponnese
– The Ionian Islands
– Western Greece
50 new wildfires have broken out daily for the past 12 days
An average of 50 new wildfires have broken out daily for the past 12 days in Greece, according to government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis. Over the weekend 64 new blazes were recorded.
“All the government’s efforts are focused on the safety of citizens and visitors and the protection of human life,” Marinakis said, stressing that an estimated 19,000 people in Rhodes had been moved to safe locations, of which 3,000 were transferred by boat.
“It was the biggest evacuation effort in the country. People of advanced age and people with disabilities were transported in Hellenic Police vehicles, while the majority of citizens and tourists were transported in tourist boats, coast guard vessels and private boats commandeered by the coast guard,” he said.
Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis during a debate in parliament declared: “We are at war – completely focused on the fires.”
“Over the coming days and weeks, we must remain on constant alert,” he said, highlighting the threat from climate change, which he added “will make its presence ever more felt with greater natural disasters throughout the Mediterranean region”.
This is a developing story