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Pray for rain, Bishop in Europe urges, after Greece wildfires

25 July 2018


People attempt to extinguish a wildfire next to a church in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on Monday

People attempt to extinguish a wildfire next to a church in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on Monday

CHRISTIANS should “pray for rain”, the Bishop in Europe, Dr Robert Innes, has said after deadly wildfires erupted in Greece on Monday.

Dr Innes said that he was “horrified” by the news of the fires near Athens, which have killed at least 81 people, with over 100 people still unaccounted for. Many more have been injured, and 700 others were rescued from the sea near Mati, 15 km north-east of the Greek capital, after fires razed the village.

The Interior Minister, Panos Skourletis, described the fires as a “biblical disaster”.

The wildfires are expected to be declared as the deadliest in postwar Europe, and come as fires affect other countries in the world that are suffering from extreme heat, including Sweden and Japan.

reutersA woman in distress, trying to find her dog, after a wildfire in the village of Mati, near Athens, on Tuesday

Dr Innes said on Tuesday: “I am horrified by the pictures I’ve seen of the fires on my television and on social media. It is clearly a terrifying experience. My heart goes out to all of those who have been so affected by the wildfires.

“I pray for the families who have lost loved ones, those who have been injured by smoke inhalation or by severe burns, and those who have lost their homes.”

The Greek government has declared a state of emergency in the region surrounding Athens. The Prime Minister, Alexis Tsipras, told reporters that his government “will do whatever is humanly possible to control it,” and that it was an “unspeakable tragedy”.

Greece has used EU civil-protection agreements to seek help; aid came from Cyprus and Spain, and more was offered from Turkey, Israel, and Italy.

Dr Innes said: “It is so heartening to see positive responses from across Europe, including Turkey, who has pledged to help in the aftermath.”

Anglicans in Athens are among those affected by the fires. Dr Innes said: “A churchwarden has lost her holiday home and her car, and another member of the church in Athens has lost their caravan. . .

“I’m in touch with our chaplain in Athens, who will be performing hospital visits today, and we will be offering pastoral care.”

He said that he would not be drawn on whether this was a climate-change issue at this time, but said: “It is a serious event, and Christians should pray for rain.”

Lefteris Partsalis/Xinhua News Agency/PA ImagesThe beach at Kineta, near Athens, Greece, after wildfires

Japan has declared a natural disaster after a heatwave swept the country, killing at least 65 people. Last week, a weather station at Ouargla, Algeria, in the Sahara desert, recorded a temperature of 51.3C, which is the highest reliable temperature ever recorded in Africa, The Guardian reported.

The global climate adviser for Christian Aid, Richard Ewbank, said on Wednesday that “there is a global trend towards both high humidity heatwaves that result in high day and night temperatures, leaving vulnerable people such as the elderly particularly exposed to heat stress, and dry heatwaves that increase drought stress and wildfire occurrence”.

Evidence that climate change is responsible for amplifying the intensity of heatwaves is increasing, Mr Ewbank said. “Globally, June was the second warmest on record, and the year to date has been the hottest La Niña [an ocean-atmosphere phenomenon] year on record.”

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