‘Everything is burning’: Refugees flee as fire guts Moria camp

Crowds of refugees rush to escape the fire that destroyed the overcrowded Greek camp, home to some 13,000 people.

Lesbos, Greece
People flee from fires burning at the Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos [Elias Marcou/Reuters]

A fire has gutted the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, forcing thousands of refugees and asylum seekers to flee.

The cause of the blaze, which destroyed the camp in the early hours of Wednesday, was not immediately clear and there were no immediate reports of casualties.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called ministers to an emergency meeting about the fire, which comes just a week after the first cases of coronavirus were reported in the camp.

Nearly the entire camp, the largest in Greece, was on fire, including an olive grove outside the walls of the main compound where many slept in tents. People were seen escaping the camp, carrying their belongings.

Stand By Me Lesvos, a refugee support group, said on Twitter it had received reports that some of the island’s Greek residents prevented fleeing asylum seekers from heading into a nearby village.

“The whole camp is on fire. Everything is burning. People are escaping. Their homes in Moria are gone,” the organisation said.

The camp was home to some 13,000 people – more than four times its stated capacity.

Moria saw a spike in coronavirus infections since reporting its first case last Wednesday, when it was placed in lockdown, with 35 confirmed cases so far.

Aid groups have long criticised the cramped and unsanitary living conditions at Moria, which make physical distancing and basic hygiene measures impossible to implement.

Greek news agency ANA said the fires started after a “revolt” by people who were to be placed in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus or coming into close contact with an infected patient.

Firefighters said earlier there were “scattered fires” around and inside the camp.

Lesbos, which lies just off the Turkish coast, was on the front line of a large movement of refugees and asylum seekers to Europe five years ago. Wildfires fanned by strong winds were also burning in two other parts of the island.

Greece Moria on fire
Stand by Me Lesvos, a refugee advocacy group, said the refugees had lost their homes in the camps [Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP]
Source: News Agencies