Thousands of refugees fell asleep on the Greek island of Lesvos for a second night after a fire destroyed the country’s largest camp on the ground, sending crowds to flee but with nowhere to go.
The families slept on the side of the road, in supermarket parking lots and in fields across the island, which were at the forefront of the European immigrant crisis in 2015-2016.
There were about 13,000 people in the camp.
Hell on Tuesday night in Moria sent thousands in a hurry to save their lives, reducing the camp – notorious for its poor living conditions – to a mass of burning steel and molten tent tarpaulins.
A second fire broke out Wednesday night, destroying what was left.
Desperate families, many with young children, spent Wednesday night in the countryside, some without tents or basic beds. Some of the homeless went hiking to nearby villages for water and other supplies.
Police reinforcements were deployed to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching the main town of the island of Mytilene, restricting them to fields and roadside.
Congo’s eight-year-old girl, who was barefoot, gestured to a Reuters reporter that she was hungry and asked for a cookie. “Our house burned down, my shoes burned, we have no food or water.”
Both she and her 30-year-old mother Natzy Malala, who has a newborn, slept on the side of the road.
“There is no food or milk for the baby,” said Natzy Malala.
Officials have declared a four-month state of emergency in Lesvos and have been transferred to additional riot police.
The immigration ministry said it would take “all necessary measures” to ensure that vulnerable groups and families had shelter, but were expected to be met with fierce resistance from locals.
Authorities had already disagreed with locals over plans to replace Moria with a closed reception center, which Lesvos residents fear thousands of asylum seekers remain permanently.
The municipalities disagreed on how to handle the situation, said Costas Moutzouris, governor of the North Aegean. “There is no decision. It is in the air,” he told Reuters.
The Immigration Ministry said a ship was sent to accommodate hundreds of people before the expected arrival of European Commission Vice President Margarita Sina to inspect conditions on the island.
Al Jazeera’s John Psaropoulos, who reported from Lesvos, said the situation was dire for the government.
“It’s difficult to see how the government is going to settle so many thousands [refugees] who have been left homeless and homeless.
“We are told that three ships are in progress to accommodate thousands of the most vulnerable people with young children, but that will probably leave a few thousand unbearable. “There is a huge problem because the municipality does not have the infrastructure to offer them.”
A government official, who declined to be named, said protecting refugees and migrants on ships was not a safe solution and was sending the wrong message to migrants who wanted to leave Lesvos.
The fire brought new tragedy to the refugees living in Moria. The camp was under quarantine restrictions due to the outbreak of COVID-19 last week.
Authorities are investigating whether Tuesday night fires deliberately started after the COVID-19 tests that led to the isolation of 35 refugees.
Al Jazeera and news agencies