Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis apologized Monday for government failures in responding to wildfires that have hit the country.
Citing what he called an unprecedented heat wave and prolonged drought, Mitsotakis said the fires have been difficult to put out. He said more than 500 fires in total had broken out in recent days.
“I fully understand the pain of our fellow citizens who saw their homes or property burned,” Mitsotakis said in a televised address. “Any failures will be identified. And responsibility will be assigned wherever necessary.”
One massive fire has been ravaging the Greek island of Evia, charring buildings and pine forests and forcing thousands of people to evacuate.
The fire has burned for more than a week and resulted in the deaths of a volunteer firefighter and an Athens official. More than 600 firefighters are involved in the effort to control it.
The United States and several European and Middle Eastern countries sent firefighters and firefighting planes and helicopters to Greece.
The European Union sent nearly 1,000 firefighters and nine planes. It is also sending resources to other countries affected by wildfires, including Turkey and Italy.
“We are mobilizing 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.
Aided by a record heat wave, the wildfires have also struck Turkey, Italy, Spain, North Macedonia, Albania, Russia, Algeria and Lebanon. In Greece, temperatures reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit).
Mitsotakis conveyed his appreciation in a Sunday Twitter statement addressing the 22 countries that 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 Celsius (2.7 d degrees Fahrenheit), 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 for this report came from the Associated Press, AFP and Reuters.