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Greece fires: PM apologises as blazes rage on Evia island

media captionStanding under red skies, one tourist on Evia described the scenes as like an “apocalyptic movie”

Greece’s prime minister has apologised for failures in tackling the wildfires tearing across the country.

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling huge blazes that have forced thousands of people to flee their homes and destroyed dozens of properties.

“We may have done what was humanly possible, but in many cases it was not enough,” Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

Thick smoke is still pouring off the island of Evia, north-east of Athens, which has been ablaze for a week.

Dozens of homes and acres of forest have already been scorched to the ground in Evia, on the outskirts of the capital, and in other parts of Greece.

Hundreds of residents have been ordered to leave the island to escape the fires, though some were determined to stay to defend their properties.

“I completely understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burning,” Prime Minister Mitsotakis said in a TV address.

But he said the country was “facing a natural disaster of unprecedented dimensions”.

Public anger has been growing at delays and breakdowns in the government’s response, including an apparent lack of water-dropping planes.

Mr Mitsokasis said “any failures will be identified”, but insisted firefighters were in a battle with “supernatural powers that often exceed their strength”.

He blamed the fires on the “climate crisis” that causes “fires that last for weeks”. Hours earlier, the UN released a major report saying human activity was making extreme weather events more common.

Fuelled by strong winds and Greece’s worst heatwave in decades, over 580 fires have broken out across the country since late July.

The biggest is on Evia, where 650 firefighters are still struggling to control the blaze.

“The fire was our destiny, no one could have put it out,” Vangelis Katsaros, who lost his entire farm to the blaze, told the BBC.

image captionEvia farmer Vangelis Katsaros lost his entire farmland to the fire

Fires that had been raging close to Athens, however, are said to have died down as temperatures cooled.

Three people have been killed by the blazes, including a volunteer firefighter hit by a falling pylon, and an industrialist who was found unconscious at a factory near Athens last week. A third man was killed on Monday when his bulldozer fell into a cliff during a fire.

Several others have been taken to hospital after suffering from smoke inhalation and burns.

Over 1,000 firefighters, planes and extra equipment have been flown in by other countries, including EU states, Russia, the UK and US.

The EU said it was mobilising “one of Europe’s biggest ever common firefighting operations” to help Greece and other countries fight wildfires.

image sourceGetty Images

image captionHundreds of firefighters are struggling to control the blaze on Evia

Mr Mitsokasis has pledged hundreds of millions of euros to support those whose livelihoods have been destroyed by the fires.

But the president of Evia’s village of Monokaria, Klelia Dimitraki, said she was concerned the area would never recover.

“Ιt is a holocaust. All the villages, the whole area is finished, finished,” she said.

“All we are saying today, is that we are fortunate to be alive.”

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