Wildfires torch Greek island of Crete weeks before official fire season starts

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Firefighters on the southern Greek island of Crete rushed to extinguish a blaze over the weekend while at least 70 other fires erupted across the country. 

The Crete wildfire forced dozens to leave their homes in the eastern city of Mavros Kolymbos in Lasithi before it spread into the mountains.

It was brought under control on Sunday. A suspected arsonist was arrested later that afternoon and will be brought before criminal prosecution on Monday, the fire department said. 

The wildfires on Crete started one month before the official fire season was scheduled to kick off in the Mediterranean country, which over the recent years has been embattled by heatwaves, strong winds and dry conditions. 

European Union officials blamed climate crises for the increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires in Europe, with the Commission noting that 192,851 hectares were torched during the 2023 season. 

In July destructive blazes set the popular Greek tourist islands of Rhodes and Corfu alight. But in August the country endured the largest single blaze ever recorded in EU history, with the fire near Alexandroupolison on the border of Turkey leading to the deaths of 26 people and 94,000 hectares of burnt natural land. 

Following the massive fires and the floods in September, the EU provided Greece with €2.25 billion in financial support.

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