Bulgaria: Kresna Gorge forest fires lead to more evacuations

 
28 August 2017

published by http://sofiaglobe.com


Bulgaria - For several days now, hundreds of firefighters and helpers, among them soldiers, have fought the wildfires in Kresna Gorge, located in South-Western Bulgaria. The fight was ongoing on Monday afternoon.

In the early morning, the authorities dealing with the fires had said the village of Vlahi did not have to be evacuated. Just a few hours later, they were forced to reverse course, since the flames were coming closer and closer. The evacuation commenced at 2 pm.

Hopes for a quick end of the crisis have been destroyed, due to the latest developments. The authorities had wanted to bring the fires under control today. But strong winds are complicating the situation on the ground.

The fires are also threatening the town of Kresna. That is one reason why a state of emergency was declared in the municipality. Two villages were evacuated during the weekend.

Bulgaria’s Interior Minister Valentin Radev, who travelled to Kresna Gorge again today, said the prosecution was continuing interrogating witnesses in the area, in order to find out how the fires erupted.

The damage caused by the wildfires has already exceeded 15 million Leva, the equivalent of about 7.8 million Euro. According to experts, it will take decades for the bushes and forests to recover.

In the past years, there have been arguments about Kresna Gorge, between Bulgarian authorities and environmentalists. That is because Struma Motorway, a major road connection between Sofia and the Greek border, is supposed to be built right through it. NGOs are fighting any attempts to harm Kresna Gorge, which is home to 3,500 species of flora and fauna.