Wildfires in Greece spread to Attica on Thursday, forcing hundreds of Greeks to evacuate their homes as over 200 firefighters work tirelessly to control the blaze.
Greek authorities have issued evacuation orders for 18 towns and villages in the greater area of Corinth as winds are expected to strengthen overnight.
Two Greek Orthodox monasteries and one convent were also evacuated for precautionary reasons.
No deaths have been reported so far although residents were ordered to evacuate their homes on Wednesday night.
Many urged to evacuate as wildfires rage on in Greece
Residents in the area of the villages of Liakoto, Kato Pefkenea, Chani Derveni and the Aghios Ierotheos monastery were also called to evacuate, as the wildfire rages northwest of Megara.
The wildfire sent ashes and a cloud of smoke over to Athens with the smoke obscuring the view of the Acropolis by midday on Thursday.
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According to the meteo.gr weather service, the thick smoke from the fire west of Athens has reached as far as Ikaria, an island located in the eastern Aegean.
Greek authorities stated that 250 firefighters were deployed to contain the blaze. This mission is extraordinarily challenging, however, as the wind speed has strengthened to eight on the Beaufort scale in the past hours.
Greeks told to ”Stay alert”
Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management, Nikos Hardalias on Thursday said ”Nearly 20 square kilometers of pristine forestland have been destroyed by the fire that started on Schinos on Wednesday night.”
During a live emergency briefing held on Thursday afternoon, Hardalias warned that ”a tough night lies ahead,” while urging all residents of the area to stay alert.
”We will do our best to save human lives, minimize material damage and protect the environment,” he said.
Fire department spokesman Lt. Col. Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said in his remarks that this is the first major fire of 2021 after the smaller fire that broke out on the island of Andros in April.
”The fire was hard to deal with overnight. But the use of aerial means after daybreak was key. The situation did improve after that point but it remains dangerous with fires rekindling at many locations,” he stated.
The efforts of the Fire Service are backed up by volunteers as well as the Greek Army who urged residents of the affected areas to ”evacuate their homes immediately.”
The cause of the wildfire to be investigated
According to Greek authorities, the fire that broke out on Wednesday started in the Gerania Mountains, an area west of Athens, during cleaning work in an olive grove, and spread through the forest fanned by strong winds.
Special arson investigators have been on the scene since Wednesday night, while the EU’s Copernicus satellite service has been activated to track the fire from the time of its origin.
Earlier in the day, the Ministry of Health issued directives for residents of the Attica basin, where the smoke is now covering the skies, to keep children and older people indoors, especially those with chronic heart and pulmonary conditions.