Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has called on the Department of Defense to provide further support to Greece as the country battles dozens of wildfires.
Menendez wrote a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday, saying Greece was a "close and valued NATO ally" that required additional assistance from the U.S. in the wake of record-breaking temperatures and wildfires.
Menendez said he welcomed the deployment of U.S. Navy aircraft to Greece to help monitor "the threats to infrastructure and residential areas," but helicopters were also necessary, The Independent reported.
"These efforts have saved lives, and I urge the Department to fulfill additional requests for assistance, including the deployment of CH-47 helicopters," he wrote. "I urge the Administration to take all measures necessary to support the people of Greece in their time of need."
Thousands of Greek residents had to evacuate their homes on Evia, Greece’s second-largest island after Crete. Another large fire is burning in the southern Peloponnese peninsula near Ancient Olympia, and one is burning in the central region of Fokida, north of Athens, according to NPR. Dozens of smaller fires are also raging throughout the country. The fires have led to two confirmed deaths, including a volunteer firefighter who died near Athens after being struck by a falling utility pole affected by the fire.
Cyprus, France, Germany, the U.K., Romania, and Ukraine are sending firefighters, helicopters, and planes to Greece. Other countries are also assisting.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis thanked countries for their help Sunday. "On behalf of the Greek people, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to all the countries that have sent assistance and resources to help fight the wildfires," Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.
Mitsotakis has described the situation as a "nightmarish summer," and that his government's priority "has been, first and foremost, to protect human lives."
The fires started after the longest heatwave the country has experienced in three decades, which kept temperatures around 113 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, and led to dry conditions. The fires are linked to "the reality of climate change," the Greek prime minister said.
In addition to Greece, wildfires are also raging in Turkey, Lebanon, and Italy. In Turkey, more than 500 square miles of coastal forest have been torched, and eight people have been killed. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated there.
The EU said it was mobilizing one of its biggest responses to tackle the wildfires affecting Greece and a number of other European nations, according to the BBC.
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