Moria camp engulfed by huge fire

Greece's largest migrant camp on the island of Lesbos was engulfed by a huge fire early Wednesday, leaving over 12,000 people homeless, with reports that the blaze was started by migrants revolting against coronavirus isolation rules, news wires reported. The camp had been destroyed as a whole but there were no known casualties so far.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas said an emergency would be declared across the entire island and reports of arson were under investigation. He warned that authorities faced a "titanic" effort to shelter asylum seekers rendered homeless by the blaze, as well as track down and isolate dozens of confirmed coronavirus infections among them. "There are 35 positive cases and they need to be isolated... to prevent an outbreak among the local population," Petsas told state TV ERT.

Hundreds of asylum seekers attempted to flee on foot towards the port town of Mytilene but were blocked by police vehicles, while others had taken shelter in the hills surrounding the camps. Greek locals on the island had also blocked 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 refugee support group Stand by Me Lesvos said on Twitter.

Greek news agency ANA said the fires had started after a revolt by asylum seekers who were to be placed in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus or coming into close contact with an infected patient. Firefighters also said they had been blocked from entering the camp to battle the blaze by a group of refugees and had asked for police assistance.

Migrant camps on the islands have endured months of lockdowns as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with access severely restricted. But at Moria, the restrictions have been harder to enforce because of the large number of asylum seekers sleeping outside the camp's walls.

More on this subject: Migration crisis

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