Hundreds of firefighters were battling to control two massive wildfires in Greece on Wednesday, one raging for nine straight days, that have left hundreds homeless and caused incalculable damage.
With the assistance of a huge multinational force, Greek fire crews were fighting to beat back blazes on the island of Evia and in the Peloponnese peninsula in rugged terrain.
Hundreds have been left homeless and face a harsh winter, not only at the mercy of floods but also because of their lost agricultural livelihood and income from tourism.
“I think we can say that the fire fronts are slowly coming under control,” Yiannis Kontzias, mayor of the Evia town of Istiaia that has been under threat for days, told state TV ERT.
“Yesterday, we saw the light of the sun for the first time in days,” he said, referring to giant smoke clouds that have choked residents and obstructed flights by water-bombing aircraft.
But even as the immediate danger receded, Kontzias said local businesses “face extinction” in coming months in a tourism season already decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have lost the month of August, which would have sustained people here over the coming year.”
“(Local) tourism has been demolished, most (visitors) have left,” he said.
“The damage is huge, and the environmental disaster will have economic repercussions for decades,” he said.
Aidipsos, one of Greece’s main spa towns, would normally have tens of thousands mainly Greek and Balkan visitors in August and revenue of around $17.5 million, local operators say.
But local hoteliers president Theodoros Roumeliotis says August reservations have collapsed by 90 percent.
“It’s a colossal loss,” Roumeliotis told AFP.
“Right now, hotels are obliged to refund one million euros in reservations canceled,” he said, adding that some operators were unlikely to survive the blow.
The fire situation was more precarious on Wednesday in the mountainous Peloponnese region of Gortynia, home to dense forests and deep ravines.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis this week apologized to the nation for any possible “shortcomings” in the state’s response. He is to hold a press conference on Thursday as pressure mounts for heads to roll.