Updated August 27th, 2017
The small village of Anafonitria in the northwest part of the island of Zakynthos is being evacuated as the raging wildfire has been threatening houses and human lives. Already some houses have been burned down.
The fire broke out short before 12 noon Saturday in a forest and low vegetation area between Anafiotissa and Volimes. It soon went out of control due to the strong blowing winds.
Firefighters and volunteers are battling against the fire, while aerial means are expected to drop water over the houses to protect them from being burned.
However, the fire is horrific and the flames reach up to ten meters, while the atmosphere is ‘suffocating’, local media report.
According to latest information (2:30 pm local time), the blaze has already reached and burned several shops in the fringes of the village, while those whose houses are not in immediate danger are packing their things to save whatever they can.
The blaze was just 100 meters away from the village houses – or closer.
Traffic police is calling on motorists to avoid driving on the road beyond Katastari in direction of Orthonies, anafonitira and Navagio (Shipwreck).
Anafonitria and Volimes are just 2 km away from the coast, above the famous tourist attraction of Zalynthos shipwreck.
Around 3 p.m., two new fire fronts broke out in the area of Ano Volimes. The new fronts are reportedly 5km away from the fire in Anafonitria.
For the time being, strong winds hinder water dropping helicopters from operating, Athens newsagency reports.
Currently, there are ten fire trucks operating in the area with 25 firefighters.
+++ According to latest information by state ERT TV (3:45 pm), there is no official order for evacuation of Anafonitria, however, Fire Brigades, Civil Protection and local authorities are stand by to implement such a plan. Many people have already left the village. Several houses have burned down. A barn and many animals have been reportedly swallowed by the fire. ERT reporter said that volunteers and local residents are assisting the firefighters in an effort to prevent that more houses are being burned.
UPDATE 1 07:00 pm
The blaze continues its devastating path, has burned down thousands of acres for forest land, at least three houses and an unknown number of shops in Anafonitria village.
Two restaurants outside the Monastery of the same name have been burned and the outside wall of the monastery.
Although there is no official order for evacuation, authorities have made vehicles available for anyone who wants to abandon the area and be transferred to safety.
One fire front is moving to the direction of Navagio (Shipwreck), two others in directions of Maries and Orthonies.
UPDATE 2 10:50 pm
Also in the evening, the fire continues with the same intensity as earlier on Saturday.
More fire truck and more firefighters have been deployed to Zakynthos from other regions.
An extra ferry boat charter is to transport 20 fire trucks and army machinery that will open fire roads. The ferry is expected to arrive after midnight.
The forces are expected to be enhanced with 7 trucks in the morning and two water dropping helicopters.
Aerial means do not fly after dusk.
Earlier Saturday, in a big operation, the fire brigades managed to open the way for 25 private vehicles with some 100 passengers at Porto Vromi. It was mostly tourists who left their cars at the port and went for a visit to the shipwreck by boats. when they return they saw that the blaze was reaching the area.
Mayor of Zakynthos, Pavlos Kolokotsas, speaks of arson. “It is impossible to not think of an arson plan when three fires break out at the same time,” he told private ANT1 TV.
With three fire fronts in Anafonitria, Volimes and Porto Vromi the night is expected to be very difficult for everyone on the island.
The fire front in Maries.
UPDATE 3 – 01:30 pm August 27
Firefighters were operating all night to limit the fire fronts.
The situation was better on Sunday due to the intervention of water dropping aircraft and helicopters.
Another factor is that the intensity of the winds has temporarily lowered down.
Efforts to extinguish the fire continue without a break.
Wildfires have been raging all summer on the island of Zakynthos and other regions in Greece.
The mayor of Zakynthos said that 30 fires broke out on the island in the month of August and more than 70 since the beginning of summer.
52 wildfires occurred in the last 24 hours across the country. Strong north winds, the ‘meltemia’, and temperature over 30 degrees have the Greek Civil Protection issuing risk warnings for wildfires.
Authorities arrested a 54-year-old man a responsible for the wildfire in Kaki Vigla, Salamina, on Friday. He is to be charged for causing a fire out of negligence as he was performing outdoor works using a wheel that sparked the fire.