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Fires in Greece Show No Signs of Slowing

People watch the flames burning trees during a wildfire in Avgaria village on Evia island, about 184 kilometers (113 miles) north of Athens, Greece, Aug. 9, 2021.

More than 600 firefighters continue to battle a massive wildfire ravaging the Greek island of Evia that has charred buildings and pine forests and forced thousands to evacuate.

The fire covering the country's second-largest island has been blazing, uncontrolled, for seven consecutive days, resulting in the deaths of a volunteer firefighter and an Athens official.

The United States and several European and Middle Eastern countries sent firefighters and firefighting planes and helicopters to Greece. Over the weekend, the U.S. Navy provided a reconnaissance plane from an airbase in Sicily, according to the Navy Times.

An helicopter fills with water as people watch from the beach during a wildfire at Pefki village on Evia island.
An helicopter fills with water as people watch from the beach during a wildfire at Pefki village on Evia island.

The European Union sent nearly 1,000 firefighters and nine planes. It is also sending resources to other countries affected by the fires, including Turkey and Italy.

"We are mobilising one of Europe's biggest ever common firefighting operations as multiple fires affect several countries simultaneously," said the EU commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarčič, in a Sunday statement.

The result of a record heat wave that baked countries, the wildfires have also struck Turkey, Italy, Spain, North Macedonia, Albania and Lebanon.

In Greece, temperatures reached 45 C (113 F) in what Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the worst heat wave in three decades.

Mitsotakis conveyed his appreciation in a Sunday Twitter statement addressing the 22 countries that had sent help to Greece.

"On behalf of the Greek people, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the countries that have sent assistance and resources to help fight the wildfires. We thank you for standing by Greece during these trying times," Mitsotakis said.

The ongoing fires in Greece come as the United Nations released a new climate report Monday that warned of worsening global warming in the coming years.

Average global temperature will rise by 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F), compared with preindustrial temperatures, by the early 2030s, the report predicts.

Many scientists believe that if temperatures surpass the 1.5-degree threshold, many effects of climate change may irreversibly worsen, leading to more intense heat waves, higher sea levels and larger storms.

For example, the report predicted the frequency of extreme heat waves would increase from once every 50 years to once every decade.

Though some climate changes may be permanent, authors of the report called for increased action to address greenhouse gas emissions, which are considered a major factor in human-driven climate change.

Nearly 200 countries agreed to limit temperatures from reaching the 1.5-degree threshold in the 2015 Paris climate agreement, but individual progress on the goal has varied.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently pledged to cut emissions in half, compared with 2005 levels, by 2030. European Union leaders similarly released an aggressive emission reduction plan that they hope to make legally binding, a step the U.S. has not taken.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press.