Wildfires are raging out of control in the Eastern Mediterranean, as the states of Italy, Albania, Morocco, Greece, North Macedonia, and Lebanon, continue to battle with the ever-encroaching flames. In particular, Greece is currently facing down over 100 concurrent wildfires, many of which sparked over the last two days; and are now forcing thousands to flee their homes by road and sea. Of great concern is the growing threat to archeological sites in the region dating back to antiquity.
As reported by the Associated Press, a significant blaze is ripping through the southern Peloponnese region near the ancient city of Olympia, the birthplace and home of the Olympics from 776 B.C. to 224 C.E. However, the mayor of a nearby town has noted that a significant firefighting cordon is in place to battle any acceleration of the fires. A similar sentiment was expressed by the Greek Minister of Culture and Sports, who noted that “everything that can be done to protect from the flames the museum and the archaeological site, where the Olympic games started, has been done,”
Olympia is but one site at risk, and, as noted by Artnet news, the government is safeguarding artifacts from the Tatoi Palace, a former royal residence built in the early 20th century, and have evacuated many of the monks from the Monastery of Saint David the Elder, which dates back to the 16th century.
Across the Aegean Sea, Turkey is facing its ninth consecutive day of uncontrolled wildfires, which now number nearly 200 stretched across 39 of the country’s 81 provinces. Unlike Greece, the country is now facing mounting fatalities and in a further troubling turn of events, the fires have now encroached on a coal-fueled power plant, one that uses explosive hydrogen tanks and lignite, forcing the evacuation of its workers. Just over the Adriatic, Italy is witnessing a similar level of devastation.
The end of the heatwave is nowhere insight, and the European Commission, along with volunteer fire brigades, is scrambling to organize a continent-wide effort to slow the spread of the wildfires.