RMS Analyzes Greek Wildfires

August 26, 2009

A bulletin from Risk Management Solutions notes that over the past 24 hours, the wildfire situation in Athens has greatly improved, but continues to be closely monitored as there is a high risk of further flare-ups.

In addition RMS noted that the Greek Government estimates that 150 houses have been destroyed, but unofficial reports indicate many more. Firefighters anticipate fires near Athens will be extinguished by late today, and astonishingly, given the fires’ intensity, no deaths have been reported.

A lull in strong winds that had been fuelling the fires since ignition aided fire-fighters’ mission on Monday. According to Greece’s National Weather Service, the high winds are expected to reduce further today, easing the fight.

The fires began late on Friday, 21 August in a rural area north of Marathon plain in Grammatiko, near Marathon, approximately 25 miles (40 kms) northeast of Athens. Ash fell on the streets and clouds of thick black smoke were observed over the capital as the fires burned along a 25 mile (40 kms) front. The Greek government issued a state of emergency on Saturday, 22 August for the Athens area in response to the fires.

Fuelled by strong winds and temperatures reaching C40° (F104°) the fires quickly spread southward through the forests over Mount Penteli and by Sunday morning were approaching the Athens suburbs of Drafi, Pikemi and Pallini.

Almost all of the 20,000 inhabitants of Agios Stefanos, located 14 miles (23 kms) northeast of Athens evacuated their homes on Sunday. Authorities have also evacuated two large children’s hospitals, campsites, and homes in villages and outlying suburban areas.

Although no fatalities have been occurred, four people were reportedly being treated for minor burns. Around 2,000 fire-fighters and soldiers have been tackling the wildfires and water dropping aircraft have been brought in to control the fire. The cause of the wildfires is still unknown and is under investigation by officials.

The wildfires are reported to be the worst since the devastating fires of 2007, in which up to 70 people were killed and over 670,000 acres of land was burnt over 10 days.

RMS said it is “continuing to monitor damage reports and will update this report if anything significant comes to light.” No estimate of monetary losses, or insured losses, have yet been compiled.

Source: Risk Management Solutions – www.rms.com

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