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Greece Battles Wildfires Near Athens for a Second Day

Greece Athens wildfires
The fire that started at Dervenoxoria, north of Athens is burning a forest. Credit: AMNA

Hundreds of firefighters aided by planes and helicopters are tackling three wildfires that broke out on Monday near Athens for a second day.

The first fire broke out at Kouvaras, southeast of Athens, and moved really fast, spanning 12 km in about 2 hours aided by high winds. The fire reached popular coastal resorts such as Lagonisi and Saronida damaging several homes.

More than 200 firemen assisted by 20 soldiers, 68 fire engines, 10 aircraft and six helicopters were fighting the flames. On Tuesday the fire has been largely contained but fears of possible reignitions are keeping the fire service on alert.

Most dangerous wildfire north of Athens

The second fire, which is described by the fire service as the most difficult, is burning a forest at Dervenoxoria, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) north of Athens. 105 firefighters with 3 ground teams and 30 fire engines are operating on land assisted by 7 airplanes and 4 helicopters.

Efforts focus on ensuring the fire does not spread to nearby Mount Parnitha. The residents of four parts of Dervenohoria were ordered to evacuate towards the town of Mandra on Tuesday as a wildfire started to approach homes and thick smoke filled the air.

Panorama, Pournari, Palaiohori and Agios Sotiras were being evacuated, as the blaze also crossed regional lines into Attica, heading towards Vilia and Oinoi.

The police have ordered the closure of exits 1 and 2 of the Attiki Odos highway, to the towns of Mandra and Magoula, respectively, while earlier they had closed the Elefsina-Thiva road to all vehicles from the Mandra junction, in both directions.

The third broke out in the forest area of Kallithea near the resort town of Loutraki and moved eastwards forcing the evacuation of several settlements after damaging homes. At one point on Monday, authorities closed the Athens-Corinth highway.

Authorities said they were battling 81 blazes in total across the country on Monday, with the biggest fronts near Athens, and were bracing for more fires on Tuesday due to soaring temperatures and strong winds.

“Tuesday will also be a very difficult day. There is a very high risk for fires,” Greek Fire Service spokesman Ioannis Artopoios told a televised briefing, adding that strong winds will persist.

The spokesman said that the most at-risk regions are Attica, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Crete, the Cyclades and the North Aegean, where wind velocity was expected to rise to 7 on the Beaufort scale in the Aegean.

Meanwhile, a second heatwave is forecast to affect Greece later this week.

Four Canadair water-dropping aircraft are expected to arrive in Greece from France and Italy to help put out wildfires, following the activation of the EU-wide Civil Protection Mechanism.

“Following Greece’s request for assistance to tackle wildfires in the Attica region, we are mobilizing 2 Canadairs from the EU Civil Protection Pool in France and 2 Canadairs from our rescEU fleet in Italy, expected to arrive today [Tuesday].

The European pre-positioned firefighters from Romania are already assisting,” European Commissioner for Crisis Management Yanez Lenarcic confirmed in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.

“More wildfires will follow”

A foreign national, who had been brought in for questioning over the fire at Kouvaras, was released. Hellenic Police said the man was a Romanian national, 32, who had been pointed out by locals as the possible instigator of the fire because he had been doing work outside.

The man was questioned by the Lavrio police but freed for lack of any evidence to detain him.

Greece’s recently re-elected Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, on a trip for a leaders’ summit in Brussels, said that he was being constantly briefed over the fires, which he attributed also to climate change. He urged citizens to follow civil protection rules.

“Today was the first really tough day of this summer. It is certain that more will follow. We’ve had, we have and will have fires, which is also one of the results of the climate crisis that we experience with increased intensity,” he said.

This is a developing story

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