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Monday, October 18, 2021

Gantz, Herzog offer help to Greece as wildfires rage across Mediterranean

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Following up on discussions between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Greek counterpart, President Isaac Herzog on Wednesday spoke with Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou about the fires sweeping her country.

It was the second time that the two had spoken since Herzog took up his position a month ago.

The two presidents discussed the heavy price that people around the world are paying as a result of global warming, with tragic loss of life and total destruction of property and surrounding parks and forests.

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Herzog reiterated Israel’s solidarity with Greece at this difficult time and emphasized not only the need but the obligation for regional cooperation.

In a conversation between Defense Minister Benny Gantz and his Greek counterpart, Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the Greek Defense Minister said that over 80 wildfires have broken out in his country in the last few days. He thanked Gantz for Israel’s offer to help by providing Greece with fire retardants.

Gantz said that Israel’s Defense Ministry would provide any other necessary assistance, especially aerial support, and search-and-rescue operations.

The Mediterranean has become a wildfire hotspot, with Turkey hit by its most intense blazes on record and a heatwave producing a high risk of further fires and smoke pollution around the region, a European Union atmosphere monitor said on Wednesday.

The fires have struck as Southern Europe experiences an intense heatwave, with some places in Greece on Tuesday recording temperatures of over 46 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit).

Human-induced climate change is making heatwaves more likely and more severe, scientists say. The EU’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) said the hot and dry conditions had hiked the danger of further fires, although high temperatures alone do not trigger wildfires because they need a source of ignition.

CAMS monitors wildfires through satellites and ground-based observation statements and said the emissions and intensity of wildfires are rapidly increasing in Turkey and Southern Italy.

In Turkey, a key metric of fire intensity – the “fire radiative power,” which measures energy produced from burning trees and other matter – reached the highest daily values since data records began in 2003.

Plumes of smoke from fires in southern Turkey were clearly visible in satellite images of the region, and the severe scale of the fires had caused high levels of particulate matter pollution over the Eastern Mediterranean area, CAMS said.

Persistent exposure to particulate matter pollution is associated with cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer.

“It is especially important to closely watch these high-intensity fires as the smoke they emit can have impacts on air quality locally and downwind,” said Copernicus senior scientist Mark Parrington.

Italy, Albania, Morocco, Greece, North Macedonia and Lebanon have all faced wildfires since late July.

The European Commission said on Wednesday it had helped mobilize firefighting aircraft, helicopters and firefighters to assist Italy, Greece, Albania and North Macedonia.

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