Two pilots killed as plane fighting Greek wildfires crashes

Two pilots killed as plane fighting Greek wildfires crashes
Rescuers operate where a firefighting plane crashed on the island of Evia, Greece, July 25, 2023. REUTERS/Stelios Misinas

Two Greek pilots were killed when their plane fighting wildfires crashed on Tuesday, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned of tough days ahead with blazes destroying homes and forcing tourist evacuations from the island of Rhodes.

The captain and co-pilot of the Canadair CL-215 plane were both killed when their aircraft crashed on the island of Evia, east of Athens, the air force said – the first fatalities in the current set of wildfires in Greece.

It gave their ages of the men as 34 and 27 respectively,

State broadcaster ERT earlier showed footage of the plane dropping water over a fire and then crashing into a hillside and bursting into flames.

Hundreds of firefighters, helped by forces from Turkey and Slovakia, were battling blazes that have raged on the island of Rhodes since Wednesday and resurged in hot, windy conditions. More emergency flights were due to take holidaymakers home.

Mitsotakis said on Tuesday the next days would be difficult, with conditions possibly improving after Thursday.

“All of us are standing guard,” he said. “In the face of what the entire planet is facing, especially the Mediterranean which is a climate change hot-spot, there is no magical defence mechanism, if there was we would have implemented it.”

An assessment by scientists published on Tuesday said human-induced climate change had played an “absolutely overwhelming” role in the extreme heatwaves that have swept across North America, southern Europe and China this month.

In Greece, a prosecutor on Rhodes launched an investigation into the causes of the fires and the preparedness and response of authorities, state broadcaster ERT said. It said about 10% of the island’s land area had burned.

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