Greece’s Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesbos has burnt to the ground after fires broke out in at least three areas of the informal settlement just after midnight last night.
There were no reports of injuries or fatalities, however, the fire razed the camp, forcing residents to flee and leaving an estimated 13,000 people without shelter.
#Moria now. looks like total wasteland . Photos sent to me by resident Raid. Thoughts among officials of housing ppl on open areas far away from inhabited areas as temp measure . That’s a crisis of gigantic proportions on all levels – political , humanitarian . EU must wake up pic.twitter.com/yKD6aj5q05
— Giorgos Christides (@g_christides) September 9, 2020
Many were seen sleeping on roadsides or in fields near the site of the camp this morning with authorities reportedly struggling to find alternative shelter.
Approximately 25 firefighters and ten engines attended the scene and battled the flames as migrants were evacuated from the camp in the early hours this morning.
By daybreak, the main fire had been extinguished, but several smaller blazes in containers across the camp were still alight, according to a report by local news channel ERT.
Fire has broken out in Moria, Greece's largest migrant camp.
Moria is home to nearly 13,000 people, more than four times the number it can officially hold.
— Xavi Ruiz (@xruiztru) September 9, 2020
It remains unclear what caused the fire. However, several competing theories blame both Turkish agents and scuffles between locals and camp residents for igniting the blaze.
Other videos circulating on social media this morning showed refugees sifting through ashes and rubble, searching for their personal possessions.
Many, however, have fled across the island, despite a recently imposed camp-wide lockdown over fears of coronavirus would spread quickly across the densely populated settlement.
“It’s an atomic bomb,” Lesbos’s Deputy Mayor, Michalis Frantzeskos, was quoted by the Guardian as saying. “People have headed to the mountains, they’re [scattered] everywhere.”
Local authorities were also reportedly forced to release 200 people who were being held in a separate quarter of the camp pending repatriation.
Meanwhile, many of Moria’s residents have reportedly made their way to Lesbos’s capital, Mytilene, where they have been turned away by island police, according to the report.
The fire has also exacerbated existing tensions between migrants and the local population. According to the BBC, some local residents attacked migrants and blocked them from walking through a village nearby Moria camp to escape the flames.
Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chaired an emergency meeting this morning to assess the situation and several government ministers are now travelling to the island to appraise the damage.