Wildfires rage outside Athens, villages evacuated

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Wildfires rage outside Athens, villages evacuated

LAVRIO, Greece, Aug 16 – Two wildfires, fanned by strong winds, raged out of control near Athens on Monday, forcing the evacuation of villages, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

More than 500 wildfires have broken out in recent weeks across Greece, which, like other countries in the Mediterranean region including Turkey and Tunisia, has seen some of its highest temperatures in decades.

On Monday, a blaze broke out on a mountain near the port town of Lavrio, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Athens, sending thick plumes of smoke above a busy beach, where windsurfers were riding the waves.

At least 91 firefighters, assisted by six water-bombing planes and six helicopters, tried to contain the fire, which broke out in an area of low vegetation and spread to pine trees. Three villages were ordered to evacuate.

A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as a wildfire burns in the village of Markati, near Athens, Greece, August 16, 2021.
A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as a wildfire burns in the village of Markati, near Athens, Greece, August 16, 2021.
Reuters/Alkis Konstantinidis

A separate blaze broke out in a forested area near the village of Vilia north of the capital, close to a children’s summer camp, authorities said. Five helicopters and five firefighting planes were dispatched there. Vilia is just over 50 km from Athens.

The biggest fire, on the island of Evia near the capital, burned for more than a week earlier in August before being contained, ravaging swathes of forest in the island’s north and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people by sea.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has apologized for failures in tackling the fires. The government announced a 500-million-euro aid package for Evia and the Attica region around Athens.

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