Residents from Evia island flee fire by boat, blaze threatens ancient Olympia


Greece evacuated people in boats from a beach on the island of Evia on Wednesday amid heavy smoke from a nearby wildfire and fire crews fought elsewhere to keep flames away from the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games as the country sweltered under a record heat wave.

The coast guard evacuated about 90 people stranded on a beach near the northern village of Rovies on Evia island. Private boats helped in the operation. Media reports said three firefighters suffered burns. Several homes were burnt as well as swaths of forest.

Elsewhere, evacuations were taking place in Greece’s southern Peloponnese region due to a major fire near ancient Olympia — where the Olympics were held every four years from 776 B.C. for more than a millennium.

The adjacent town of Ancient Olympia was evacuated, with another seven nearby villages. The area was ravaged by wildfires in 2007 that cost dozens of lives but spared Olympia’s ruined sports venues and temples.

The mayor of the nearby town of Pirgos said a strong firefighting cordon had been placed around the verdant site, one of the most beautiful in a country teeming with antiquities.

“I think the site’s security is at a satisfactory level,” Panagiotis Andonakopoulos said.

Flames burn a mountain in Platanos village, near ancient Olympia, western Greece, Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021. Photo: Giannis Spyrounis/ via AP.

In response to the dangerous fire situation, the European Union sent firefighters and water-dropping planes to Greece overnight. The help came a day after another major blaze burned more than 100 homes and businesses near the Greek capital of Athens.

“Following the situation with great concern. European solidarity is at work to fight these terrible fires,” EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a tweet.

Civil Protection chief, Nikos Hardalias, said 118 wildfires broke out over the past 24 hours, and warned that even worse days could lie ahead for the hard-pressed fire service.

Civil protection workers try to open a door as they check for possible trapped residents during a wildfire in Rovies village on the island of Evia. Photo: AP News.

“We are making a titanic effort on many fronts,” he told an evening briefing. “According to our threat forecasts, tomorrow too is expected to be a difficult day … The toughest part lies ahead of us, the next days and weeks will be even harder. Our key target is to protect human lives.”

Temperatures in Greece reached 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) Wednesday, in what authorities described as the worst heat wave since 1987. The heat wave is forecast to hover over the country until the end of the week.

Source: AP News.




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