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2 Large Fires Destroy Homes And Businesses On The Greek Island Of Evia


Two big fires burning on the Greek island of Evia have forced around 3,000 people to evacuate aboard ferries. The fires have burned homes and businesses. And in the meantime, Greece is also living through one of its worst heat waves in decades. In some parts of the country, it's gotten up to 113 degrees. Earlier today, I talked to Daphne Tolis. She's a freelance reporter who's there in Evia.

DAPHNE TOLIS, BYLINE: We've had hundreds of fires here on this island. At the moment, I am near two active fire fronts where residents here and firemen - local firemen, European firemen, foreign firemen - are trying to contain the flames. The residents are being very helpful. The local residents are actually making fire breaks. They know the area. They know the lay of the land. It's very valuable, their assistance and their knowledge to help coordinate the efforts with the fire service to actually contain these fires and stop them from reaching other villages further - you know, bigger towns on this island.

KING: How big is Evia? Can you give us a comparison? You said hundreds of fires have burned there. There are two burning now.

TOLIS: It is a very large island. It's connecting with the mainland. It's north of Athens. So you can actually drive there through a bridge. But the last three days, the north side of the island and the south have been cut off by these fires. It's mountainous. So it's very difficult to access all these villages. These two active fires have sort of surrounded two villages which are north of Istiaia, a town of approximately 21,000 residents.

KING: So more than 2,000 residents have left. The people who've stayed behind, what are they telling you?

TOLIS: Some fire-affected villages that we drove past had five or 10 residents. But other than that, it was like time had frozen, you know? It's like a town that hasn't woken up, but it's like this the whole day. So you're just expecting to see people walking, to see people go and buy groceries, buy bread. One pharmacy was opened in one village. But I saw all the other cafes were closed, shut completely. There was no electricity. Now it's restored. In some of the villages, there was no electricity. There was no water. There was no signal as well in some of these villages that were sort of devoured by the fires.

KING: And are firefighters making any progress?

TOLIS: They are making progress. And there's assistance coming. Like, seven hours ago, I saw firefighters from Slovakia with their fire trucks coming ready to operate. It was 1:30 in the morning. Other firefighters are coming, too. Yesterday, there were firefighting aircrafts flying and dropping water throughout the day. And now this operation is continuing. So Greek firemen with foreign firemen, local Greek volunteers and residents all together, you know, they're on this effort, massive effort, to contain this fire from spreading even further.

KING: And we've been talking about Evia. But there are fires burning elsewhere in Greece. The suburbs close to Athens have also had fires. What's it like countrywide at this point?

TOLIS: I was there, yes. I was in Athens - 45 minutes north of Athens, where this, the fires, were also spreading and had also damaged and burnt large, vegetated areas. But also, houses have been affected. People were told to evacuate there as well. Some areas have still water outages. People lost their homes. Whole areas were burnt. Businesses were burnt. This - at the moment, it is contained. But obviously, the damage is massive.

KING: OK. Daphne Tolis is a freelance journalist and a producer based in Athens. Daphne, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate it.

TOLIS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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