Wednesday evening, RAI International News showed images of wildfires in Sicily, where the situation looked bad to me. I don’t understand Italian, but when hillside villages are going up in vivid flames, I can follow the story. So when the report went to the national map and a generous handful of flashing symbols lent the impression that half of Italy and Sicily were en flambe, I was horrified. Still, I am wary of getting emotionally involved in situations where my hovercraft may be full of eels, so I hoped everything would be okay and forgot about it.
This is another story. From the New York Times, in English:
Greece declared a national state of emergency on Saturday as scores of forest fires that have killed at least 46 people continued to burn out of control, leaving some villages trapped within walls of flames, cut off from firefighters and, in some cases, from firefighting aircraft grounded because of high winds.
Desperate people called television and radio stations pleading for help that they feared would not arrive in time.
“I can hear the flames outside my door,” one caller from the village of Andritsena told a Greek television station, according to Reuters news service. “There is no water anywhere. There is no help. We are alone.”
Hear the flames? Oh. My. God.
Firefighters expect the death toll to rise, because they have not yet been able to search some areas that had been overrun by flames. Hardest hit by the fires were a dozen hamlets tucked into the rural highlands around the town of Zaharo in the western peninsula, where at least 12 people, including some who may have been trying to flee by car, were killed. Charred bodies were found in cars, houses and fields in areas around Zaharo, firefighters said.
At least some of the people there were believed to have been killed or trapped after a collision between a fire truck and a convoy of cars apparently trying to flee the flames. Scores of other residents, including elderly and disabled people, remained trapped in their homes, phoning in to local television and radio stations, crying for help.
“Help! Help! Help!” wailed one resident as he spoke with Mega television from the town of Artemida. “Get some one here fast. We’re losing everything.” Minutes later, another caller pleaded for authorities to help save her two children, one of whom she feared was in shock after having seen their home go up in flames.
South of Zaharo, rescue teams confirmed at least six deaths in the seaside town of Areopolis, in the Mani region, a popular tourist destination known for its rugged cliffs and ravines. Among the victims in the area were a pair of French hikers who were trapped in a flaming ravine. Their charred bodies were found locked in an embrace, the authorities said.
I’m fucking speechless. Not this guy.
Late Saturday, Mr. Karamanlis appeared on national television and declared that he was mobilizing all of the country’s resources to tackle the blazes to “prevail in a battle that must be won.” Mr. Karamanlis also suggested that the recent fires might have been purposely set. “So many fires sparked simultaneously in so many regions is no coincidence,” he said, wearing a black tie and suit in a show of mourning. “We will get to the bottom of this and punish those responsible.”
But political opponents accused the prime minister of shunning responsibility for what the authorities have called a “national tragedy.”
“Rather than deflect attention and lay blame on some anonymous arsonist, the prime minister should take blame for the government’s failure to effectively handle this crisis,” said Nikos Bistis, a opposition socialist lawmaker, on local television.
I don’t give a good goddamn about the politics, but I care a whole lot about the suffering that is and will be for a long time to come, and there’s almost nothing I can do about it. Well, I guess there’s this.