Israel is deploying firefighting planes and professional firefighting teams to help fight wildfires in Greece.
The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and National Security, as well as Israel’s National Fire and Rescue Service and Israel Police are all providing assistance to the Mediterranean nation as fires continue to rage across the country.
“Greece is a friend who needs our help and we will mobilize the necessary resources to help,” said Foreign Minister Eli Cohen. “During my visit to Athens about a week ago, I assured my colleague, the Greek Foreign Minister, that the relationship between Israel is deep and strategic. This friendship is measured even in difficult moments like now, Israel will not stand by.
“Following the instructions of the Prime Minister’s Office, we are in contact with the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Defense, as well as with the Israel Police in order to combine forces and provide assistance in the fastest and most efficient way for the Greeks,” he added.
Scorching Temperatures Raise Wildfire Risk
Wildfires have been blazing in Greece since the start of the week, particularly north and west of Athens, forcing authorities to close highways near an oil refinery outside the Greek capital. Sections of two highways linking Athens to the western city of Corinth were closed to give firefighters better access to stop the flames from approaching a coastal complex of oil refineries close to the community. According to Skai TV, that blaze came within 500 meters (1,600 feet) of the installation.
On Monday, a four-day heatwave touched off fires that burned their way through seaside towns southeast of Athens, destroying holiday homes and leaving a trail of horro.
One fire front stretched for more than five miles late Tuesday, prompting mass evacuations as the flames charred dozens of homes, cars, olive groves and pine forests in the area of Mandra, where police were seen helping panic-stricken residents get into vehicles as the fire approached.
Greek media reported that a four-kilometer front of flames reached the periphery of the 30,000-strong town of Megara.
Mass evacuations were ordered as firefighters doused the flames using water bombers from the air. A blaze near the resort town of Loutraki also destroyed at least 32 homes and prompted more evacuations.
Fresh evacuation orders were issued Wednesday for three areas threatened by approaching flames, as the country braces for another heatwave that is expected, with temperatures forecast to reach 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
On the island of Rhodes, a separate blaze destroyed forests in a densely wooded mountainous area. Three villages were evacuated as a precaution. Fires were reported on the island of Crete as well.
Israeli, European Union Firefighters Join the Battle
Greece has activated a rapid mapping evaluation system that uses European Union satellite data to assess fire damage.
Firefighting teams are arriving to help from Poland, Romania and Slovakia in addition to those from Israel. Firefighters from Italy and France are already on site, battling the flames north of the city that are inching closer to Athens.
“We have always had wildfires and we always will,” said Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who cut short a visit to Brussels to return to Athens. “But with the effects of the climate crisis, we are experiencing fires with increasing intensity.”