Swiss send helicopters and crew to help contain Greece wildfires

Firemen try to prevent a wildfire from crossing into the national highway, in the area of Afidnes, northeast of Athens on August 5 Keystone / Alexander Beltes

Switzerland has responded to a call for international firefighting assistance from Greece, which has been hit by major wildfires.

This content was published on August 6, 2021 - 17:08

The blazes have been threatening populated areas, electricity installations and historic sites. Thousands of people have already fled their homes in several regions. A major blaze is situated just north of Athens.

Greece has suffered a long heatwave, which has seen temperatures rise to more than 40 degrees Celsius and turned forests bone dry. Strong winds are also forecast, which could fan the flames.

“With no improvement of the situation in sight, Switzerland has decided to send assistance in response to Greece's request,” a Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) statement said on FridayExternal link.

Army assistance

The Swiss will dispatch three army helicopters along with firefighting crews on Saturday to help contain the fires. They will start firefighting work north of Athens on Sunday.

A Swiss Humanitarian Aid (SHA) team already set off for Greece on Friday afternoon. This rapid response team, made up of four SHA members and fire protection experts, will support the Swiss Armed Forces on the ground and ensure coordination with the Greek authorities, the FDFA said.

Firefighters from France, Sweden, Cyprus and Romania are among those also helping Greece. Help from the Netherlands and other European Union members is also expected.

There have been deadly fires in Turkey and Albania as well. North Macedonia’s government on Thursday declared the country in a state of crisis for the next 30 days due to wildfires.

Greek ministers and European Union officials have blamed climate change for the blazes.

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