Forest fires on the Greek island of Euboea destroyed an ancient olive tree that was 2,500 years old, Greek Reporter states.
The tree was so large that the diameter of the trunk could accommodate ten people. It was still bearing fruit. Now only charred fragments of the historical plant remain.
A photo of a burned tree was posted on Twitter by local resident Apostolis Panagiotou.
Greek media note that the tree was mentioned in his writings by the ancient historian and geographer Strabo.
Catastrophic forest fires continue to burn in the north of the second-largest island of Greece, located near the mainland northeast of Athens.
Twenty-two countries have reportedly helped put out fires in Greece. On August 9, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked them.
“On behalf of the Greek people, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the countries that have sent help and resources to fight forest fires. We are grateful to you for standing by Greece in these difficult times,” Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
In particular, 11 EU members (Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden), as well as Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Moldova, Qatar, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Great Britain, and the United States provided assistance.
Greece has experienced the strongest heat in three decades, with temperatures rising above 45° C.
New Wildfires in Ancient Corinth, Central Evia, Ancient Olympia
Recent wildfires broke out in Ancient Corinth and Central Evia areas, while they continue to rage in ancient Olympia as firefighters battle to contain the flames.
A new wildfire broke out on August 14 afternoon in the area of Ancient Corinth. Air and ground forces are operating at the site, according to the Fire Brigade.
As reported by the Fire Brigade, the fire that broke out in Ancient Corinth is burning in agroforestry land in the Fanaria area.
Twenty-four firefighters with 11 vehicles operate at the scene, while five firefighting planes and two helicopters are dropping water from the air.
With a text sent from emergency number 112, the Civil Protection Agency called on the residents of Solomos community to evacuate and head to Chiliomodi.
According to Fire Brigade officials, in Ancient Olympia, large groups of firefighters are operating, reinforced by other firefighters from the European Civil Protection Mechanism.
In the area of the Eastern Mani, ground forces of the Fire Brigade continue to operate to prevent any rekindling of previous blazes, while in the area of Dryalia in Laconia, the fire that broke out on Friday afternoon is now considered partially contained.
Yet another wildfire on the island of Evia
A wildfire broke out in an agroforestry area in Petries, in central Evia, in early August 14 morning.
According to information from local news sites, the winds in the area are powerful, reaching level 8 on the Beaufort scale (32-38 miles per hour, or a moderate gale), making the efforts of firefighters and residents to extinguish the fire even more difficult.
This is the 12th consecutive day that idyllic Evia Island has been ravaged by wildfires, in the most significant environmental catastrophe in Greek history.
The destruction on the island has been immense, with the entirety of the northern part now being almost completely destroyed. Communities, villages, and towns have been evacuated, some by ferry, others by the Coast Guard, and yet more by personal vessels, which were part of the effort.
“Our children will never see the environment and our land in the same way we saw it,” Istiaia – Aidipsos Mayor Giannis Kontzias told Greek Reporter in an interview this week.
Arson attempt in Athens suburb
Greek authorities have brought several people suspected of arson in the last few days in for questioning.
In addition, evidence has been found that at least some of the fires were set deliberately. Evidence such as fuel containers, gas canisters, matches, and lighters – and incredibly, even magnifying glasses on dry branches in forests, have been found in the investigations.
An arson attempt in a wooded area near Mount Hymettus was reported on August 14 by Elliniko – Argyroupolis Mayor Giannis Konstantatos.
In a post on social media, accompanied by photographs, the mayor said that a forest guard volunteer patrol found two gas canisters at the base of a pine tree, hidden under a pillow.
It was the second time in a week that volunteers have detected incendiary devices in the Argyroupolis forest, which is a cause for concern, the mayor wrote.
The mayor also thanked the volunteer teams that are now patrolling the municipality’s wooded areas round the clock.
Greece Fires Continue in Peloponnese; 287,049 Acres Burned in 2021
Hundreds of firefighters both from Greece and elsewhere continued their efforts to put out scattered fires that continue toburn in Arcadia and in Eastern Mani, southern Peloponnese.
According to the fire brigade, there is no major fire front in the region; however, small, widely scattered fires that do continue to burn could potentially turn into bigger blazes if not contained.
Along with the firefighters, many residents of the area remain around their villages, ready to assist if needed once again.
Fortunately, the region of Arcadia saw its first rainfall in weeks on Thursday evening, something that helped the firefighters a great deal.
The meteorological service of the National Observatory of Athens issued a new statement on Friday morning in regard to the magnitude of the environmental catastrophe that wildfires have caused in Greece this year.
After analyzing data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), the NOA stated that a total of 1,161,650 stremmata, or 287,049 acres, of land have been burned since the beginning of the fire season in Greece for 2021.
This represents an astonishing 448% increase compared to the average annual burned acreage between 2002 and 2020.
A total of 58 large forest fires have taken place in Greece in 2021. This gives an average of 4,942 acres being burned per large fire in Greece, putting the country at the top of the Mediterranean nations for this year.
Greek Beekeeping Destroyed By Recent Wildfires in Evia
Greek pine honey is now even more of a precious commodity following wildfires that have, for the most part destroyed beekeeping in northern Evia. The recent wildfires charred more than 130,000 acres of forested land in Evia.
It was in those same charred forests that bees produced the unique Greek pine honey. The wide variety of trees and flowers found in northern Evia made the area a cornucopia for bees. Production of honey with a piney taste because of the surroundings of the Evian forest is finished.
The now-blackened remains of the charred northern Evian forests are no longer a hospitable climate for honey production, according to beekeeper Dimitris Papapostolou. “Greek pine honey is finished. The bees no longer have anywhere to feed to produce the unique flavor that comes from flora and fauna natural to our forests.”
Papapostolou told the Greek Reporter on August 13: “I was one of the lucky ones. I had my bees on the mainland. I only bring them to Evia for the three months that the pine trees are pollinated, from about September through November.”
And although Papapostolou’s bees and hives were saved, he has nonetheless lost 60 percent of his business because more than half of the honey his company, mellisopoto.gr, produces, is pine honey.
Others were not so lucky. Antonis Vakas, a beekeeper from Voutes, Evia, spoke with Reuters, lamenting his trade loss. “The destruction is immeasurable,” Vakas said. “Beekeeping has been destroyed. We are destroyed. There is no green anywhere. Bees cannot exist without green.”
The wildfires that raged for nearly a week on Evia ravaged the land around villages, destroying pine trees and consuming thousands of beehives. Papapostolou estimated that disaster had destroyed at least 5,000 hives.
“Greek pine honey comes from northern Evia and a small portion from Thasso. About 40 percent of that Greek pine honey comes from northern Evia. Beekeeping is destroyed with no living in trees in northern Evia,” he says.
Greek Honey is Fourth Most Exported Honey in EU
According to the latest Eurostat figures, Greek beekeepers produced 15,000 tons of honey in 2018, making it the EU’s eighth largest producer. But its high-quality honey is particularly prized, and it is the bloc’s fourth-biggest exporter of honey.
“All countries produce good natural honey, but they are inferior to Greek honey,” Papapostolou told Greek Reporter. The 40-year-old has a legacy of four generations of beekeepers in northern Evia. His great-grandfather began harvesting honey more than a century ago.
Pine honey has a distinctive, delicious taste that is different than flower-derived honeys, because “in the case of pine honey and fir honey, the bees are fed from the microorganisms that live only on these trees and not from the actual tree,” Papapostolou told Greek Reporter.
Greece is one of the European Union’s biggest honey producers. The temperate Mediterranean climate and its typically heavily forested landscape allow bees to thrive.
A record heatwave resulted in wildfires that blazed across almost half of the island. Some locals who defied evacuation orders had to choose between saving their property or their livelihoods.
“First, we tried to save our houses. Unfortunately, we could not save our hives,” Vakas said. Only 30 out of his 130 beehives survived.
There are no flowers still alive now to give up their pollen, so the bee population cannot be reborn. There are no pine trees to make honey, so Greek beekeepers cannot make an income, according to the Istiaia Beekeepers’ Cooperative in Evia, which has about 60 members.
Without bees, there’s no life on Earth
Papapostolou said that “without bees, life wouldn’t exist on our planet. And now, for many in Evia, there will be no livelihood. Bees play an integral role in pollinating many plants that we rely on for food and other uses, and without them, many plants and entire ecosystems would be destroyed.”
Climate change has impacted bee populations, which have been decreasing at an alarming rate. Scientists and apiarists stress the importance of supporting beekeepers and buying sustainably produced honey, as it helps keep essential bee populations strong.
A total of 58 large forest fires have taken place in Greece in 2021. This represents an average of 4,942 acres being burned per large fire in Greece, putting the country at the top of the Mediterranean nations for this year.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced financial relief and compensation this week to help communities rebuild after the devastation.
However, bringing back the green – and the bees – is perhaps a measure Mitsotakis cannot pull off.