Villages evacuated as winds fan two new blazes outside of Athens

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Fanned by strong winds, two new big wildfires erupted on Monday in hard-hit Greece, triggering evacuation alerts for villages southeast and northwest of Athens — only days after blazes consumed large tracts of forest north of the Greek capital.

Greece has been roiled by hundreds of wildfires this month, on the heels of its most severe heat wave in decades, which left its forests tinder dry. Other Mediterranean countries — Turkey, Italy, Algeria and Spain among them — have suffered similar problems.

A wildfire burns next to a house in the village of Synterina, near Athens, on 16 August. Photo: Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images.

The worst of the two blazes that erupted on Monday was in the Vilia area northwest of the Greek capital, which triggered an evacuation alert for eight villages. Greece’s minister for public order, Michalis Chrysochoidis, said the flames were coursing through a densely forested area with scattered villages, none of which were in direct danger.

“We are trying to stop the fire from spreading” towards the nearby large village of Vilia, he said.

A volunteer operates during a wildfire in Siderina village about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Photo: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis.

That blaze was being fought by 240 firefighters — including 143 from Poland — supported by eight water-dropping planes and nine helicopters.

Another fire broke out earlier in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, burning shrubland and threatening a national park in the Sounion area. Three communities were ordered evacuated. Some residents desperately drenched their homes, while volunteers with hoses and branches helped fight the fires. More than 100 firefighters, eight water-dropping planes and 11 helicopters were striving to contain the blaze, which appeared to be on the wane by evening.

Volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire burning in the village of Markati, near Athens, on 16 August. Photo: Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters.

“Right now the situation there has improved, there are scattered active fires within the perimeter and efforts are continuing to contain them,” Chrysohoidis said.

Local mayor Dimitris Loukas told Greek television that authorities were investigating reports of arson. He said residents had seen someone in a car setting a dumpster on fire.

Source: AP News.

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