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EU thanks Cyprus for helping to fight Greek fires

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EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič thanked Cyprus, Czechia, France, Slovenia, and the Netherlands for helping fellow member states to fight devastating fires.

As forest fires continue affecting various regions in the Mediterranean and the Western Balkans, the European Commission is swiftly mobilising support to assist countries in limiting the spread of the fires and protect lives and livelihoods.

A prolonged heatwave and baking temperatures stoke fires across the Mediterranean.

In particular, two Canadair firefighting aeroplanes from France were sent to affected areas in Italy to start firefighting operations.

Also, two firefighting planes from Cyprus are supporting Greece, on top of 40-strong firefighting and civil defence crews and equipment to support operations on the ground.

Two helicopters to support operations in Albania were dispatched from Czechia and the Netherlands while Slovenia is sending a team of 45 firefighters to North Macedonia.

Assistance is mobilised through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, co-funding by the Commission of at least 75% of transport costs.

Lenarčič said: “We are working around the clock to send help as fires rage across Europe. I thank Cyprus, Czechia, France, Slovenia, and the Netherlands for swiftly deploying firefighting aeroplanes, helicopters, and a team of firefighters to support countries heavily affected by forest fires.

“At this time, as several Mediterranean countries are facing fires, EU Civil Protection makes sure that our firefighting tools in place are used at maximum capacity.

“This is an excellent example of EU solidarity in times of need.”

EU-coordinated firefighting operations are currently ongoing in Turkey and Sardinia, Italy, since the end of July.

Greek authorities ordered villages near the site of the ancient Olympic Games in the western Peloponnese to be evacuated on Wednesday as wildfires raged across the country, destroying swathes of forest and buildings and sending hundreds fleeing.

Temperatures of more than 40°Celsius and strong winds have fanned more than 150 wildfires in different areas of the country in recent days, adding to the conflagrations in Turkey and other areas of the Mediterranean.

A dozen villages were cleared near the archaeological site in the western Peloponnese region where the ancient Olympic Games were held, and around 160 firefighters, with water-bombing aircraft, battled to save the ancient treasures.

The site, where the Olympic flame begins its journey to the city hosting the modern Olympics, is one of Greece’s most popular tourist attractions.

It was also threatened by an earlier fire in 2007.

Rescue boats off the island of Evia near Athens picked up some 85 people from the beach as a wildfire engulfed the surrounding pine forests filling the sky with thick smoke.

Reinforcements arrived from Cyprus, and firefighters from France and two aircraft from Sweden were expected by Thursday.

Fires that had threatened houses on the northern outskirts of Athens on Tuesday eased slightly.

But residents were told to stay indoors as a thick cloud of smoke hung over the city, filling the air with harmful particles and the smell of burning.