Russia sends more fire-fighting aircraft to Greece

Russia is sending additional fire-fighting aircraft to Greece which remains in the grip of raging forest fires. Earlier, two giant fire-fighter planes and three helicopters were sent following an appeal made by the Greek Prime Minister on Thursday.

The blazes sparked by an unprecedented heat wave have prompted several European countries to appeal for foreign help.

In Serbia fire-fighters have finally managed to bring the situation under control with the help of Russian colleagues. On Sunday Russia is sending a specialist plane to Montenegro. And in Greece, fire-fighters report they have managed to contain major fires in the southern part of the country, though the situation remains severe in the north.

Forest fires continue to rage across Greece.

In the mountains near the town of Aegio, the worst fires are over, but smoke still rises amid the charcoaled remains. It’s a constant battle for the water-bombers – helicopters are on a non-stop mission to douse the flames.

Father Scordulis, who lives in a mountainous village in the region, says in the 72 years that he has been here he has never seen such destruction.

“It’s a disaster. Families with children have been left homeless. We are all worried about our futures,” he complains.


For more than eight years now the Russian Emergencies Ministry has been promoting the idea of establishing a euro-squadron that will be available to all participating countries in case they need it. This would make fire-fighting aircraft more affordable and at the same time more effective. However, we haven’t heard anything definite from the EU countries so far.

Rafail Zakirov

As villagers sift through the rubble, they acknowledge there is nothing to salvage. They say the task of clearing the debris is daunting.

Temperatures are beginning to drop but the risk of fire still remains. Firemen admit it’s been tough work.

“The fires here were the worst to tackle because we’re dealing with difficult terrain, hard- to- reach areas,” Sachinidis Nikos, from the Voluntary Corps of Greek Firefighters, says.

The blazes may be small now, but they’re numerous. For the water-bombers it’s a thankless task – as soon as one fire is put out, close-by another is sparked.

With temperatures soaring up to 45 degrees Celsius, Greece has been experiencing the worst heat wave for decades, which has caused tremendous blazes all over the country. The worst affected area is the Peloponnesus Peninsula in the southern part of Greece.

The Greek authorities had to mobilise considerable human resources, including army conscripts and volunteers. Still, they had to turn to foreign governments for technical help.

Thus, on Thursday Russia sent two MI-26 helicopters to Greece. Stationed at a NATO base outside Athens, they have been involved in tackling fire in various parts of the country. MI-26 helicopters can carry on board up to 15 tons of water.

Russia’s Emergencies Ministry is due to send three more helicopters and two Il-76 water-bombing planes.

Greece: house destroyed by fire
Greece: house destroyed by fire

This summer, South Eastern Europe is sweltering with the ongoing heat wave. Conditions this month have caused up to 500 deaths in Hungary, put 19,000 Romanians in hospital and triggered forest fires across Bulgaria and Greece.

Amongst the most affected are Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Italy, and they have rung the alarm, with a request for help from the Russian government.

A large Russian aircraft has already helped extinguish flames in Bulgaria and is now working in Serbia where over 2,000 hectares of farmland and forests have been burnt to the ground. The IL-76 plane carries some 40 tons of water on board, the aircraft especially designed for putting out large forest fires.  

Russia receives requests for help from the Balkan States annually.

“For more than eight years now the Russian Emergencies Ministry has been promoting the idea of establishing a euro-squadron that will be available to all participating countries in case they need it. This would make fire-fighting aircraft more affordable and at the same time more effective. However, we haven’t heard anything definite from the EU countries so far,” Rafail Zakirov, Russian Emergencies Aviation Chief, stated.