As the ash settles over the beautiful Greek island of Evia, where a series of fires broke out on Tuesday — some of which continue to burn — residents look over the charred remnants of their lives before the horrific blaze raced over the island.
Inhabitants of the town who had returned on Thursday, after the fire burned out, spoke to Greek Reporter as they surveyed the massive damage from the fire.
Residents lost everything — their homes, sentimental possessions, and in many cases even their ways of making an income.
The fire, which hit the country that had already been battered by years of economic crisis, and just as it begins to recover from the losses of the pandemic, has now wiped out the hopes and dreams of many on Evia.
Many of them are saying that they received little help from the government, and that the hands of brave firefighters were tied by what they argue was incompetent leadership.
Blaze consumed the village of Rovies on Evia
The village of Rovies was engulfed in flames on Wednesday. A huge wall of fire descended on the area from the north with some flames in the pine forest surrounding the area reaching 20 meters (60 feet) into the sky, painting a horrific scene that will not soon be forgotten.
Fortunately, residents had evacuated the area before the flames burned the village, and had made their way toward the sea.
There, Vessels from the Greek Coast Guard rushed to the area in an effort to evacuate residents and tourists, while private boats were also recruited into the effort at the last minute.
Ferryboats also took part in the evacuation effort as flames continued to spread at what local news media called “breakneck speed.”
A total of 85 citizens were safely evacuated by boat after they had made their way to the beach at the village of Rovies.
Although the residents themselves were thankfully safe, their homes and property were cruelly destroyed in the fire.
Blaze destroyed homes, disrupted lives of countless residents
Stella Anastasiou, who owned a house in Rovies, where her mother lived, stated to Greek Reporter that she rushed to the village from Athens to save her mother after receiving a call from her nieces and nephews.
“I got here at 3 PM…to pick up my mother so she wouldn’t be burned… I didn’t see anyone doing anything to prevent the house from burning down,” she says.
“They didn’t help us at all. They told us that the village was being evacuated, just to have the entire town burn down.”
Anastasiou and her husband are both unemployed, and the fire destroyed everything they had in Evia. It even destroyed their beehives and honey-making equipment, which they used to make a little money to get by.
She then gave a tour of her home, lamenting over what was once her pride and joy, and is now a pile of ash.
Fire in Evia: “Everything burned down. All our properties, possessions, everything”
Mother of three Panagiota Mylona, who lives and owns a store in Rovies, now calls the town a “dead village.”
Even though her store was thankfully not consumed by the fire, she argues that it’s almost as if it had burned down.
She, like countless other business owners in the village, depends on tourism to make ends meet. Tourists, she says, came to Rovies for the beautiful beaches nearby as well as the town’s luscious green spaces.
Now, there is no reason for anyone to come. Everything has burned.
“They forced us out of the village, and everything was razed. There was no one here to help us or to spray water — No one — not even the firefighting service,” Mylona claims in her interview with Greek Reporter.
Uncertain of the structural condition and safety of the ground floor of her home, which is the only part that has not burned completely, Mylona does not yet know where she and her family will live.
“Everyone left, and our houses burned down. Everything was destroyed, all our property, possessions, everything…
“I don’t know what to say. We are in a horrible situation, horrible,” the woman says mournfully in the wake of the fires that struck Evia.
In describing the events of the horrific day that the fire destroyed her home, Mylona argues that the residents were left completely unaided.
“No one helped us. There was no firefighting service here, nothing… Next door is the main road to and from the town that leads everywhere. Road over here, road over there, Roads everywhere, but no one to help us. Nothing,” Mylona complained.
Residents recall horrors of the fire in Evia
Speaking to Greek Reporter, Dimitris Bouzoukakis, who also lives in Rovies, claimed that residents of the town tried to warn officials that the blaze would reach them before it ravaged the town on Wednesday.
“The fire was very simple and very easy. Unfortunately, the firefighting service had received an order to leave from the location where they should have been, and even though there was no wind, the fire spread very quickly,” Bouzoukakis states.
“The officials did not listen to our advice. We were telling them that the fire would move from where it was before and would come here and that everything here would burn…
“Unfortunately, the firefighters kept telling us that they had not received the order to begin spraying water on the fire. Huge portions of nearby villages had burned at that point.”
The man recalled the horror of the fire in Evia while standing on the site of what once was the local medical clinic, which provided essential health services to those in Rovies as well as five other neighboring villages — which has now been reduced to ash.
“Before the fire arrived in Rovies yesterday afternoon, we were telling them to use the helicopters to spray water…and we were telling them that if the fire goes up the hill that Rovies would also burn. Unfortunately, that’s exactly how it happened,” Bouzoukakis continues.
“We were not helped, the firefighting service did not have water, and the firefighters were not going into the fire. There was no one there, and the only thing that they did was make us leave, and evacuate the village. Maybe if they had let us stay, some houses would be saved.”
“This is what remains of my gem…”
Teacher Eleni Alexandridi rushed back to Rovies on Thursday after the fire in Evia died out to check on “her gem,” the private tutoring school that she owned in the town.
The building was completely destroyed by the fire. While the walls still stand, everything inside burned, and even the roof caved in.
Luckily, some important papers stored in Alexandridi’s office were saved from the blaze. That is all that now remains of her school.