Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis: Forest fires turned into “major environmental disaster”

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday called the devastating forest fires that have been burning across the country for more than a week the biggest environmental disaster Greece has seen in decades.

The fires broke out as the country was reeling from the most intense and prolonged heat wave seen since 1987. Hundreds of wildfires broke out across the country, straining to the limit Greece’s ability to fight the fire and forcing the government to turn to foreign countries for help. Hundreds of firefighters as well as planes, helicopters and cars arrived to help from 24 European and Middle Eastern countries.

“We managed to save lives, but we lost forests and property,” Mitsotakis said, calling the wildfires “the greatest environmental disaster of recent decades.”

Speaking at a news conference in Athens, the first since the fires began, Mitsotakis said authorities faced about 100 active fires every day. By Thursday, the situation had greatly improved, and most of the large wildfires had subsided.

However, the prime minister warned that the danger of more fires still exists.

“We’re in the middle of August, and it’s clear that we’re in for some tough days” until the primary season during which fires occur is over, he said.

“The climate crisis – I’d like to use that term, not climate change – the climate crisis is already here, and it’s showing us that things have to change,” he said.

“It’s a common crisis for all of us,” he said.

In recent weeks, several Mediterranean countries have been hit by extreme heat and rapidly spreading wildfires, including Turkey, where at least eight people died, and Italy. In Algeria, wildfires in the mountains have killed at least 69 people.

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