arson fire greece
Official blames arsonists for the majority of 667 blazes that have spread in the extreme weather
Most of the 667 fires that have erupted across Greece in recent weeks were started "by human hand", the country's senior climate crisis official has said.

As the Mediterranean country emerges from an unprecedented, 15-day period of heatwave-induced infernos, the scale of the destruction is finally being laid bare.

While weather conditions have been different from any other year - with experts calling the first three weeks of July the hottest on record - most of the fires could have been prevented, the government claimed on Friday.

Comment: Most of this year's record high temperature claims have been shown to be dubious at best, what with weather stations being situated near airports, and temperature measurements being redefined as ground surface temperatures rather than 2 metres above ground.

Vassilis Kikilias, the Greek minister of climate crisis and civil protection, told reporters: "During this time 667 fires erupted, that is more than 60 fires a day, almost all over the country. Unfortunately, the majority were ignited by human hand, either by criminal negligence or intent.

Kikilias said that, in certain places, blazes had broken out at numerous points in close proximity at the same time, suggesting the involvement of arsonists intent on spreading fires further.

He added: "The difference with other years were the weather conditions. Climate change, which yielded a historic and unprecedented heatwave, is here. There were very few days where the extreme weather was not combined with strong winds."

Meteorologists have never before registered such record-breaking temperatures over such a prolonged period of time in Greece. With the exception of islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas, 15-year highs were reached.

This week, the World Meteorological Organization and Europe's Copernicus Climate Change Service described July as the hottest month in recorded history. The UN also said it was clear that no month had ever been so hot.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general, called for bold and immediate measures to cut planet-heating emissions, adding: "The evidence is everywhere. Humanity has unleashed destruction. This must not inspire despair, but action."

The fires have killed three people and injured 74 others. On Wednesday, the Greek armed forces announced three days of mourning after two air force pilots were killed as they tried to extinguish flames in their water-bombing plane before it crashed over the island of Evia.

Nearly 20,000 people - primarily tourists - were forced to flee hotels on Rhodes, the island worst affected by the fires, in a single day. The operation was described as the biggest evacuation ever carried out in Greece. A state of emergency was declared in some areas of the popular tourist destination earlier this week.

Comment: Notably, authorities didn't restrict entry to the island nor did travel agencies stop flights, and it seems this might be because, whilst the fires necessitated evacuations from the effected areas, they weren't as severe and widespread as the propaganda media would have us believe.

While flames are still raging on Rhodes and the islands of Corfu and Evia, Friday was the first day that emergency services were not on a state of high alert, with the fire department saying the situation had finally begun to improve. Officials said a huge blaze that detonated an ammunition storage facility on Thursday north of a military airbase in Nea Anchialos, 20km (12 miles) outside the city of Volos, had been brought under control.

Prof Christos Zerefos, Greece's leading expert on atmospheric physics, warned that the situation would worsen every year. He said: "All strategies will have to be reviewed (because of) the climate crisis." Zerefos has long maintained that annual mean temperatures across the Mediterranean will increase by up to 2C over the next 30 years.

Comment: Except that much of Europe has been unseasonably unsettled and cool this summer, with the next few weeks expected to be similar:
It seems very likely that the first ten days of August will be very cool in France and Western Europe. The air mass at 1500 m could present a deficit of up to 7°C at the end of the pro week with maximum near the ground below 20°C and minimum below 10°C in the northeast.

He predicted that the climate crisis could cost Greece as much as €700bn (£600bn) , both in terms of preventive measures and adjusting to the new reality, and emphasised the importance to the country of rejuvenating devastated forest ecosystems.

Zerefos added: "The mild winter has resulted in us losing half the water this year, reducing soil moisture and this creates a situation that favours the spread of forest fires. Forest ecosystems in Greece are among the most sensitive in the world. The forest ecosystem is essential. If we protect it there is hope it can regenerate."