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Five Villages Evacuated West of Athens as Fire Burns for Fourth Day

Fires west of Athens
The fire west of Athens is burning pine forest and threatening villages. Credit: AMNA

Five villages near the town of Villa, west of Athens, were evacuated early on Thursday as the fire that broke out on Monday continues to burn the pine forest of Mount Pateras, one of the few remaining green areas around the Greek capital.

The Fire Service says that the blaze is moving toward the villages of Oinoi and Panorama.

Hundreds of firefighters aided by seven water-dropping helicopters and seven firefighting aircraft including the Russian Beriev-200 are trying to douse the flames.

Assistance is also being provided by many volunteer firefighters, construction equipment from the Greek Army and water tankers of the region and the local government.

According to the Fire Service, the constant changes in the direction of the winds are creating serious problems; the winds are expected to intensify further later in the day.

Opposition says government incapable to stop fires

Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras criticized the government on Wednesday for its management of the fires in Greece, which he said have burned over 120,000 hectares (1.2 million stremmas).

In a Facebook post, Tsipras said “Over 1,200,000 stremmas burned. Forests, assets, homes, farm lands, animals and human lives lie in ashes. Millions of Greek people live in fear for the present and the future. This is the safety (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis promised and used as a rallying cry. This is the effectiveness of the very expensive executive state of his.”

He also charged that “the fire will stop when it reaches the sea.”

Greece has seen large fires burn as of August 3 in Varybobi north of Athens, North Evia island, and Ilia and Arcadia in the Peloponnese, all of which Tsipras mentioned in his post, adding Keratea and Villia, the latter of which has been out of control for the fourth day.

The environmental devastation from the fires in northern Evia is enormous, according to a statement issued by the meteorological service of the National Observatory of Athens (NOA).

According to the NOA, a total of 126,023 acres (51,000 hectares or 510,000 stremmata) has been burned on the island of Evia.

The fires in August claimed the life of a volunteer videographer working for the firefighters. In 2018, 102 people died in the fire at Mati, east of Athens, which was the second-deadliest wildfire of the century after the 2009 bushfires in Australia which killed 173 people.

The fire at Mati also counted as the sixth-deadliest in the last 100 years.

Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme weather events.

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