Wildfires worst ecological catastrophe in decades, Greek prime minister says

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday said at a news conference in Athens that the country’s wildfires were the worst ecological catastrophe in decades.

The wildfires were “the greatest ecological catastrophe of the last few decades,” Mitsotakis said, according to The Associated Press.

“We managed to save lives, but we lost forests and property,” he added.

Firefighters have largely contained the 100 fires they were seeing each day by Thursday with larger fires scaling back, but the prime minister warned against an early victory lap.

“We are in the middle of August and it’s clear we will have difficult days ahead of us,” Mitsotakis said.

There has so far been one firefighter who died after an electrical pole fell and four firefighters have gone to the hospital for injuries, according to the AP.

The country was proactive with evacuation orders, although has been criticized for having people evacuate too early.

Citizens expressed frustration as some of their neighbors stayed back and were able to save their homes, the AP reports. The country has also faced criticism for not sending firefighting planes sooner and not sending enough of them.

The prime minister previously apologized to residents for the country’s response and the ministry of infrastructure said the government is working on a plan to compensate those who lost their homes.

The worst wildfire broke out on the island of Evia with more than a thousand people evacuating the area.

Mitsotakis said some of the fires were certainly caused by arson and some people have been arrested. However, it is not clear if this was a planned attack as hot and dry conditions were prime for fires to erupt.

“The climate crisis — I’d like to use this term, and not climate change — the climate crisis is here,” the prime minister said at the press conference.

“This is a common crisis for all of us,” he added.