A blazing fire has completely destroyed Greece’s largest migrant camp at the overcrowded Moria facility on the island of Lesbos – at least one person has been confirmed dead.
IT took 25 firefighters and 10 fire engines to battle the flames as migrants were evacuated – many suffered injuries from smoke exposure. Reports say migrants protesting against coronavirus rules may have started the fire, though this is so far unconfirmed. Police had earlier blocked migrants heading to the port town of Mytilene, leaving them stuck on the road.
According to the mayor of the small town of Moria, Yiannis Mastroyiannis, the fire broke out after 35 people who had tested positive for coronavirus refused to be transferred to an isolation centre. From that moment they began clashes among the refugees themselves and some began to set fires, both within the enclosure and in the olive grove that surrounds the camp, where thousands of migrants live.
Mastroyannis explained, in statements to the Skai television network, that the fire is under control and the residents who fled are mostly in the vicinity of Moria. The town is currently home to nearly 13,000 people, more than four times the number it should officially be holding. Lesbos deputy governor Aris Hatzikomninos reportedly told local radio the camp had been “completely destroyed.” The Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, is at the moment holding an emergency meeting on the fire.
Thousands of people fled the camp and started heading towards the capital Mytilene. Police blocked access to the city, located about eight kilometres away, to avoid a health emergency, since the countryside was under quarantine due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Strong winds helped the flames spread rapidly, destroying almost everything in its path, especially the containers and tents. The government manager for refugee camps, Manos Logothetis, claimed that the camp has been fully evacuated and that now the challenge is to find accommodation for the 13,000 people that inhabited it.
According to local media, the possibility of transferring them to a nearby beach is still being considered until a permanent solution can be found.