Firefighters try to extinguish flames during a wildfire at the village of Kineta, near Athens, Greece, on 24 July 2018. Photo: Valerie Gache / AFP

Dr. Jeff Masters
27 July 2018

(Weather Underground) – The death toll from the horrific 23 July 2018 fires in Attica, Greece has risen to 87, with dozens more missing. According to statistics from EM-DAT, the international disaster database, this would make the Greek fires of 2018 the deadliest in European history – and fifth deadliest worldwide in the past century. Here is how the top-five list of deadliest wildfire events globally since 1918 now looks:

  1. 1000 deaths, 1918 (Cloquet fire, Minnesota, U.S.)
  2. 240 deaths, 1997 (Indonesia forest fires)
  3. 191 deaths, 1987 (Black Dragon fire, China and Soviet Union)
  4. 180 deaths, 2009 (Black Saturday bushfires, Australia)
  5. 87 deaths, 2018 (Attica, Greece)

Note that premature deaths from inhalation of fire smoke are not included in the list. For the period 1997 – 2006, Johnston et al. estimated an average of 339,000 deaths occurred each year worldwide due to inhalation of wildfire smoke.  Koplitz et al. (2016) found that the death toll from the air pollution associated with the 2015 Indonesian forest fires was over 100,000, while Kunii and Yajima (2002) found an air pollution death toll of 15,000 from the 1997 Indonesian fires. (Note also that EM-DAT incorrectly lists the 20 October 1944 Cleveland East Ohio Gas explosion, with 121 deaths, as being the 5th deadliest wildfire of the past century). […]

Meteorology of the 2018 Attica, Greece fires

The two largest wildfires--one 10 miles east-northeast of Athens near Mati, and the other 30 miles west of Athens, in Kineta--broke out Monday during hot, dry, windy conditions. Athens Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, located about 5 miles southwest of the Mati fire, experienced a high of 38.1°C (101°F), accompanied by accompanied by humidity values as low as 17%. Strong westerly winds, very unusual for this time of year, accompanied the hot and dry conditions: a wind gust of 102 kph (63 mph) was reported at the airport at 18 UTC, and wind gusts as high as 124 kph (77 mph) were recorded in the area. [more]

5th Deadliest Wildfire Globally in Past 100 Years: 87 Dead from Monday's Greek Fires

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