Wildfires in Greece Force Thousands to Evacuate
ATHENS – Greek firefighters were working to put out a blaze that broke out in a forest north of Athens on Wednesday, burning dozens of homes and burning large swathes of land to ashes, with similar efforts in courses to extinguish forest fires in the southern Peloponnesian Peninsula and other parts of the country.
Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday after a major forest fire ravaged the area north of Athens, spreading to several settlements. Many other people were rescued by firefighters after being stranded in their homes. Residents fled by car, motorbike and even on foot, as dozens of horses were released from an area riding club and were seen roaming the local streets.
The government said it would provide hotel accommodation to local residents unable to return home for as long as needed.
The blaze was fueled by days of drought as temperatures hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) amid a scorching heat wave that officials described as the worst since 1987, when more than 1,000 people died.
TV footage of affected areas north of Athens on Wednesday morning showed charred carcasses of houses and cars amid blackened trees as thick smog hung over the capital and patches of ash hung in the air .
As the country goes through a record-breaking heat wave, the Athens National Observatory on Wednesday called on residents to stay at home with windows closed if possible, warning that the blaze has dramatically worsened air pollution in the capital.
The fire north of Athens was the worst score that erupted across the country on Tuesday.
Referring to an “extremely difficult night” of fighting the fires, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection Nikos Hardalias said that only one of the four fronts of the fire remained active on Wednesday morning. Speaking outside the firefighter control center in Athens, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said authorities would remain on alert to minimize the damage over the next few days as sweltering temperatures continue, with winds forecast for Friday.
“Thank goodness we have had no loss of life so far,” Mitsotakis said.
However, he added: “There are still difficulties ahead, we have heatwave and windy days to come. “
Firefighters also battled fires on the island of Evia, north of Athens, and in the Messinia region on the Peloponnese peninsula, where dozens of houses were also set on fire.
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