The fires of Keri and Agala are still imprinted on many Zakynthians’ mind; it wasn’t long before that, the fires of 2017 devastated our Island.
Just what has happened so far is the memory of our firefighters having to deal with the infernos in conditions that not many of us have seen.
Talk of arson has been on the lips of most of us who live here. In 2017 there was talk of suspects being arrested but as to what happened to them or even if they were jailed no one seems to know.
A resident’s account.
The story of Keri and Agala is no different. Witnesses at first hand saying that they heard explosions in three different places then fire followed soon after.
One of those witnesses is Andreas Panagopoulos. Seeing the fire come down over the mountain towards Lithakia, he decided to go and investigate.
He talked about the severe weather conditions of that day. The winds howling on a very hot summer’s day. As we got talking I asked him if he knew how it started. Was it of natural causes or was it pure arson?
His answer to my questions was that which most of us here have heard so many times before. “3 explosions were heard in 3 different places. They found the mechanisms but we can’t be certain until the official report comes out.” He then went on to explain how he became involved.
“The volunteers of Lithakia decided that day to do a clean up action within the village. There was only one volunteer in the mountains at that stage as all the rest were in the village. This gave the arsonist a perfect chance to do damage as there wouldn’t be anyone in the forest patrolling as they normally do.”
Mr Panagopoulos explained how it was impossible for the firemen to reach certain points. There were no roads or the roads they could have used were not cleared. This caused a delay “We could have had it under control if the volunteers were there and the roads were cleared”.
The fire gaining ground reached his friend’s place in Keri. Police had closed off roads at this point. The two men were struggling trying to keep the fire at bay. “We saw it come down so quickly. The flames were about 5 metres high. Whirlwinds of fire, it was dangerous, so my friend shouted out to get out. We were nearly engulfed as the fire had surrounded the area. “
As we can see in the video provided. A miracle that the fire just stopped before the Hotel as wind had changed its direction.
(Video of fire…)
Zakynthos’ community comes together.
As this is not the first time Zakynthos has been under threat by possible arsonists. The community putting aside their grief and rage due to the thought that someone could even think of burning their homes pulled together.
Volunteers from every organization worked together as one. Some helping the Fire Department others organizing food, water and drinks to the 200 or so people who were located on the mountain.
The Zakynthian community apart from the normal government departments did their best to help in every situation. Even now the fight to help continues. The amazing thing about this tragic event is the people who have supported our plight. People from all over the world holding out a hand to help in any way they could. Even donations coming from America in honour of a local volunteer fire department in Texas, called Hubbard Creek volunteer Fire Department in Stephen’s County, Texas.
Visitors to the island making sure that they sent a few bottles of water and snacks for the firemen whilst on their holiday. These simple acts of humanity made the grief of watching our land go up in smoke a wee bit bearable. A gofundme account set up by a young Greek American journalist. Her wish is to help those who affected and try and help our local fire department. Her story of how we are ALL Greeks and the fact that we pick ourselves up and move forward is one that inspires. https://www.thenationalherald.com
As you can see Zakynthos is not alone and has never been so. She will continue to rise like a phoenix from those who try to bring her down. Zakynthos is the flower of the East and with so many people who have come to love her; she will always blossom and reign in victory in spite of her enemies.
Gofundme account link here…. https://www.gofundme.com/f/fight-fires-on-the-greek-island-of-zakynthos
photos & Video:- Andreas Panagopoulos, Dennis Anastassiou & Dionysios Nikolopoulos.