As wildfires continue to rage uncontrollably for a fourth consecutive day near Alexandroupolis in north-eastern Greece, dozens of patients have been urgently relocated from a local hospital. The fires have even encroached upon the grounds of the university hospital, prompting the evacuation of vulnerable patients, including newborn babies and those in intensive care.
The evacuation efforts saw many patients transported to a ferry docked at a nearby port. On the ferry, makeshift hospital wards were set up on the decks, accommodating patients who rely on oxygen bottles. Additionally, tents were erected on the shore to provide further emergency medical care.
Alexandroupolis, a significant port near the Greek-Turkish border, is just one of the areas grappling with the devastating wildfires. Driven by high winds and temperatures expected to reach 39°C (102°F), these fires are also affecting other regions including the island of Evia and Boeotia in central Greece, where entire villages have been emptied as a precaution.
Tragically, there has already been a reported fatality due to the fires near Alexandroupolis. The severity of the situation led Greek officials to coordinate the evacuation of approximately 115 patients from the university hospital located on the city’s north-eastern periphery. Amidst the evacuation operation, the flames breached the hospital’s premises, causing the facility to be engulfed in smoke and ash. Explosions were heard as oxygen bottles inside the hospital area ignited.
Throughout the night, an ominous red glow illuminated the outskirts of Alexandroupolis, and satellite imagery revealed large swathes of Greece shrouded in thick smoke. The situation escalated to the point where patients from the Alexandroupolis General Hospital were accommodated on the ship ‘Adamantios Korais’ after the hospital’s evacuation. Notably, the ship was repurposed to serve as a temporary medical facility, especially for intensive care and neonatal patients.
As the fires persisted, residents from eight neighboring villages were instructed to leave their homes and seek refuge in Alexandroupolis. The blaze also extended its reach to other areas, including Rhodope to the northwest and Kavala along the coast to the west.
Moreover, wildfires ignited west of Athens, with flames engulfing three warehouses in an industrial zone near Aspropyrgos. Acrid smoke darkened the skies near the Attica highway. Tragically, two Albanian workers voiced that helicopters might have averted this catastrophe, but their timely arrival was lacking.
Multiple countries, including France, Cyprus, and Romania, have sent reinforcements to assist Greek firefighters in tackling the ongoing blazes. These occurrences are indicative of the heightened risk of wildfires across Europe, a consequence of escalating climate change impacts.
While summer wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, the frequency and intensity of such extreme weather events have been attributed to climate change by scientists. Greece faced an exceptionally severe July in terms of wildfires, with the burnt area surpassing previous records.
In response to the crisis, the Greek fire service emphasized the need to adapt to these extreme phenomena. Greece is not alone in facing such challenges, as other European nations are also grappling with escalating wildfire risks due to climate change.
Meanwhile, wildfires on the Spanish island of Tenerife have been battled for nearly a week, with authorities hopeful that the worst has passed. France experienced its hottest day on record, reaching 42.4°C (108.3°F) in the Drôme region. Switzerland has witnessed a record shift in freezing temperatures due to global warming, with the “zero-degree isotherm” now at an elevation of 5,298 meters (17,381 feet).