The EU has mobilised assets towards disaster response in Greece, aimed at tackling the forest fires ravaging the country.
Assets deployed by rescEU, the bloc’s new civil defence mechanism, include three planes developed to fight fires from reserve facilities in Italy and Spain. The EU’s Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides is on the ground overseeing disaster response in Greece, along with newly elected Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who has cancelled a planned summer holiday in order to supervise relief efforts and offer support to firefighters and affected communities. Meanwhile Copernicus, the EU’s satellite mapping facility, has been providing additional assistance in the form of damage assessment maps to better enable emergency workers to target fires and the destruction they cause.
The wildfires broke out early this week in the wake of a weekend of hot weather combined with strong winds, which have exacerbated the spread of forest fires. Hundreds of residents have been evacuated from towns and villages on Evia, Greece’s second largest island, where fire has spread through a dense pine forest.
Commissioner Stylianides said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Greece at this difficult time. The planes are already in action, fighting the fires. This immediate response proves the added value of rescEU which makes our response more robust, quick and efficient. Moreover, this is a real example of the common European values on which rescEU is based: solidarity and protection of lives of our European citizens. I am thankful to Italy and Spain for their offers of assistance. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”
The EU’s mobilisation of assistance towards the disaster response in Greece is the first practical deployment of resources through the rescEU mechanism, which is designed to strengthen the bloc’s capacity to respond to disasters and emergencies as a collective, providing mutual support and assistance between Member States.