Residents near Athens, eastern Greece count toll of wildfires

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Greece is evacuating several towns as the country battles its most intense heatwaves and wildfires in decades. 

A fire on the outskirts of Athens is the worst of 81 wildfires that broke out in Greece within a 24 hour period after the area to the capital’s north hit 34-year record-breaking 45 degrees Celsius. 

“Our country is undergoing one of the worst heatwaves of the past 40 years,” Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias says.

“We continue to fight hour by hour, with our top priority being to save human lives.”

“We will do so all night.”

Smoke blankets Athens (Photo: AP/Aggelos Barai)

Residents near Tatoi evacuated towards Athens amidst a heavy blanket of smoke with Greece’s main north-south highway partially closed. 

Fire crews attended to each house and responded to 315 people’s calls for help and six people required treatment for light breathing complaints. 

No severe injuries or disappearances have been reported and authorities say several buildings have been damaged. 

The cause of the blaze is unclear. 

Wildfires also raged in other parts of Greece and prompted evacuations in the southern Peloponnese and the islands of Evia and Kos, authorities say. 

To Greece’s far east, Jason Zafeirakopoulis is one of many residents in Rhodes who’s been left counting the toll amongst the charred remains of his family’s vineyard. 

“As far as the vines are concerned, I think everything is destroyed,” he tells Sky News’ Europe correspondent Michelle Clifford

“We are thankful that we still have our home and our buildings for our business because the flames came so very close that we might have been homeless today, so I guess we are thankful for that. But we do struggle to figure out how we are going to recover.”

Mike Koulianos is a Maritsa local and says it’s the first time the village has had to evacuate. 

“We can see this every day, we have problems with the weather. Today we have 39 degrees. It’s very hot. Everything is changing for the worse.”

Mr. Koulianos says big business is driving climate change. 

“Of course it is [climate change]“, he says. 

“Especially the people who have factories and all that – everything starts from there. They have to do something so we can follow.”

He speaks for other residents when he says this week’s fires as the worst many have seen in their lifetime. 

Source: AP, Sky News, Guardian 

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