A major overnight fire swept through Greece's largest refugee camp, which had been placed under COVID-19 lockdown, burning through container housing and leaving more than 12,000 migrants Wednesday in emergency need of shelter on the island of Lesbos.
In dramatic night-time scenes, migrants at the overcrowded Moria refugee camp fled fires that broke out at multiple points and were fanned by gale-force winds, gutting much of the camp and surrounding hillside olive groves. Protests also broke out involving migrants, riot police, and firefighters. There were no reports of injuries.
Aid agencies have long warned of dire living conditions at Moria, where more than 12,500 have been living in and around a facility built to house just over 2,750.
A state of emergency was declared on the island starting Wednesday for public health reasons and will be in effect for four months, Greece's civil protection authority announced.
"It has been a very difficult night," Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said, adding that all possible causes of the fire, including arson, were being examined.
Petsas said those who had been living in Moria would not be allowed to leave the island to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus.
The camp was put under lockdown after a Somali man was found to have been infected with the virus.