Greek Wildfire Update - On Location in Greece - 9/6/07

Img_0804Heading South, the terrain became more mountainous, and we continued to be amazed at the destruction. The entire time the helicopters flew overhead, we realized that as we drove South towards the port of Kalamata, the helicopters were taking the same route. When we arrived in the city, we saw them re-supplying their water barrels in the ocean, and then returning to the fires. Along the way we stopped and spoke to fire officials. They said that fire was now traveling underground, and that they were on the lookout for flare-ups. Meanwhile, further east, larger fires were still burning.

We met with another team to compare notes in Kalamata. They had just finished the region where the highest number of human deaths had taken place. They saw and treated more burned animals than we had, but overall, saw much of the same – a desperate need for food. We quickly swapped notes, mapped out new places to head, and agreed to meet in Athens in a few days.

Img_greece3_2We then climbed up the mountainside heading to Sparti and rounded stunningly beautiful mountains overlooking the ocean. I was frantically typing on my laptop in the back to deliver information and photos back to our headquarters in Massachusetts. Incredibly carsick, we arrived to meet a lovely couple named Ivor and Vicki who graciously let us tap into satellite systems and cell towers from their side porch so we could beam out information. Their house had survived. They are with the Kalamata Animal Rescue Society, and had 6 adorable puppies and adult strays. Once again, we got to squeeze a few cheeky pups which helps counteract the misery we had seen earlier. You couldn’t ask for a better break. From the porch however, you saw charred mountainside all around you. Beaming complete – we said our thanks you and good-byes and jumped back into the car.

We then headed over the mountains towards Sparti winding around charred forested area and passing through completely devastated villages. The police at one stop pointed out that the 25 foot high trees were still smoking from the tops. Once again, the few villagers we did come across had weary faces and exhausted eyes.

From various accounts – the wildlife in these beautiful mountains was gone. Some thought they had all been killed, and others thought they had fled to nearby areas. Twice we heard the fear from locals that hunters would converge upon surviving wildlife as their corralling provided for easy targeting. We saw no remnants of wild animals on our journey whatsoever.

We headed back to Athens that evening after a whirlwind two days and 2 nights. We are now in the process of further determining the needs of the communities and animals to figure out next steps.

Img_greecemed_2As we drove back into Athens at 1:00am, we felt like we were returning to a different world entirely. Lights were blinking, cars were buzzing by, and cafes were full. It was amazing that only a few short hours outside the city, complete and profound sadness and devastation hovered over so much of the country.

Smelling like smoke with soot on my clothes, I fell into bed… I couldn’t get to sleep as I wondered if that sheep covered with burns who received the antibiotics that morning had been able to stand by nightfall.

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