Greece on High Alert as Wildfires Rage Early

Greece has raised a wildfire alert to its second-highest level after dozens of blazes broke out over the weekend. They come following a record warm winter in the country.

Greece on Sunday raised the wildfire  alert level for several regions to high risk, the second highest after more than 70 forest fires were reported across the country on Saturday.

Although most were brought under control, one on the island of Crete was still burning on Sunday, the fire department said, adding that three people had been lightly injured in the blaze.

High Winds Are Expected

On Saturday, “71 fires were declared in agricultural and forestry regions across the country in 12 hours, between 0300 GMT and 1500 GMT,” said the Civil Protection Ministry, which is also in charge of responses to the climate crisis.

The raised alert comes as strong winds of up to 60 kph (37 mph) are expected until Tuesday in parts of Greece, “making the situation extremely dangerous for the outbreak of fires,” the ministry said.

 The areas concerned include the Athens region, the center, the Cyclades islands and Crete. 

Dry Conditions Amid Climate Change In Greece

Greece has experienced five weeks with little or no rain as the Athens Observatory warns of a worrying level of drought. 

The Mediterranean country recorded a record average temperature of 11.8 C (53.2 F) over the winter, and temperatures have been unseasonably high since April started. On Tuesday, Chania on Crete reached 31 C.

Like many other parts of the Mediterranean, it suffered an extensive heat wave last summer in which 20 people died and almost 175,000 hectares (430,000 acres) were scorched by blazes. 

Around 20,000 holidaymakers and locals had to be brought to safety as fires raged in the south of the island of Rhodes, a popular tourist destination.

Experts say that Greece’s wildfire season, which used to begin in May, is likely to begin progressively earlier due to human made climate change. 

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