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Israel offers aid to Greece as it battles dangerous wildfires

  • August 04, 2021

Defense Minister Benny Gantz offered Israeli assistance to his Greek counterpart Wednesday as Greece battled dozens of fires.

“I spoke with Greek Defense Minister Nikolaos Panagiotopoulos in light of the wave of fires that are sweeping the country,” said Gantz. “The defense minister updated me that in the past few days, more than 80 fires have broken out in Greece.”

Gantz said Panagiotopoulos thanked him for the Israeli offer of support. “If any additional assistance is required — in particular air assistance or rescue personnel — we will be at their disposal,” he said.

Israel has in the past sent firefighting planes and rescue teams to assist Greece in battling blazes.

Greece’s coast guard helped with evacuations Wednesday on the island of Evia, where residents escaping wildfires had fled to a beach for safety, and fire crews across the country struggled to contain new blazes amid the country’s worst heatwave in decades.

The European Union sent assistance to Greece and other countries in southeast Europe that are grappling with huge wildfires after a blaze Tuesday burned more than 100 homes and businesses near the Greek capital of Athens.

Evacuations were also taking place in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region, which was facing a major fire. The coast guard said about 85 people were stranded on a beach in Evia, adding that private boats were also helping in the evacuation.

Temperatures in parts of Greece reached 45 degrees Celsius (113°F) on Wednesday. Neighboring countries are facing similar conditions, fueling deadly wildfires in Turkey and blazes in Italy and across the Mediterranean region. Officials in Albania said one person had died of smoke inhalation outside the southern city of Gjirokaster, where wildfires caused hundreds of residents to flee.

An EU disaster response group said assistance, including firefighters and water-dropping planes, was being sent from EU members to Italy, Greece, Albania and North Macedonia.

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