Friday, June 21 2024

Wildfires tear through towns in Greece as thousands flee seaside resorts

 Greece wildfire
Wildfire burns forests north of Athens while fires weaken in southeast and west. Two separate blazes are tearing through the country as it suffers the effects of a scorching Mediterranean heatwave. Fanned by strong winds, the wildfires have so far raged uncontrolled through two towns near Athens, damaging homes and forcing thousands of people to flee.
HDN Newsroom
A wildfire intensified overnight and swept along forests north of Athens for a second day on Tuesday, authorities said, as fire fighters managed to contain other blazes southeast and west of the Greek capital.
A blaze raged uncontrolled and burned forest in the area of Dervenochoria about 30 km north of Athens, a fire service official said on Tuesday. The fire threatened a pig farm, according to Greek media.
Another fire weakened on Tuesday, having first broke out on Monday in the village of Kouvaras, about 27 kilometres (17 miles) southeast of the Greek capital. Fanned by shifting winds, that fire had quickly spread to the coastal towns of Anavyssos, Lagonisi and Saronida, forcing people to flee their homes.
However, 230 firefighters assisted by 76 fire engines and five helicopters were still operating at different spots in the area, a Greek fire service official said on Tuesday.
In the coastal town of Loutraki, west of Athens, 1,200 children were evacuated as flames approached their camp.
Meanwhile, police arrested a man suspected of starting another blaze in Kouvaras, south-east of the capital.
Dozens of people have had to leave their homes in the wider area, assisted by emergency service crews. Several animals also had to be evacuated, including a number of horses that were in stables that caught fire.
The Greek government said those whose homes had been affected by the fires were eligible for accommodation in local hotels and they would be later be compensated.
The wildfires were fanned by strong winds, with hundreds of firefighters battling to contain the spread of the flames.
Greek fire service spokesperson Ioannis Artopios said while the winds were making it difficult for aircraft to approach the fires safely, firefighters were "making every effort".
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is currently in Brussels for a summit, said the state was doing everything possible to help.
"Today was the first essentially difficult day of this summer," said Mr Mitsotakis.
"No doubt more will follow. Wildfires have occurred and will continue to occur. This is also one of the effects of the climate crisis that we are experiencing with increasing intensity."
While at least one of the fires is suspected to have been started deliberately, scientists say extreme weather is becoming more frequent and more intense in many places because of the warming planet.
According to weather watchers, the intense regional heatwave shows no sign of easing. The Greek meteorological service, meanwhile, has warned that the risk of further fires remains high.