The Moria refugee camp on the island of Lesvos, Greece, has been destroyed by a large fire that broke out on Tuesday night, leaving thousands in need of emergency assistance. It’s not the first time a fire rips through Moria but this time, it seems the facility has suffered the greatest damage. Administrative offices and health facilities, the files of the National Asylum Service, the premises of UN and EASO, have all been destroyed.
The Government has declared Lesvos island at a stage of emergency for the next four months due to public health concerns.
Thousands, including women with children, the elderly, the sick and the disabled fled in panic carrying some of their belongings. Most took refuge in the hills and the countryside overlooking Moria, while others attempted to walk towards the town of Mytilene, capital of Lesvos. Police forces blocked the highway towards Mytilene to prevent migrants from fleeing to the town.
Before the fire, COVID-19 posed an additional challenge at the camp, where people lived in cramped and unsanitary conditions with little access to running water.
Doctors of the World teams in the Kara Tepe camp, the overflow site for Moria, are currently assessing the damage in collaboration with the camp manager and fire department.
“From Moria to Epano Skala, people who were in the camps are sitting by the side of the road, with the few belongings they could carry, once again fleeing for their safety” said Constantinos Petradellis, MdM Greece field coordinator on Lesvos. “Our fears and anxiety for the victims are growing.”
More than 12,000 people have been left homeless by the blaze. Our mobile medical unit is currently active outside the center of Moria and our team – consisting of 22 medical and project staff – is assisting with efforts to identify potential victims and assess the needs of those displaced by the fire. Our medical team has also been performing consultations and examining patients on the road, especially pregnant women that are in need of immediate assistance.
In Athens, our staff are preparing an emergency shipment of medicine, medical consumables and non-food items, such as tents, sleeping bags, COVID-19 protective equipment and hygiene kits. They’ve also started planning for a more holistic response to the fire.