Raging wildfires force evacuation of villages in northern Greece

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An extensive summer wildfire fuelled by strong winds has caused the evacuation of villages in northern Greece over the weekend.

Authorities in Greece undertook the evacuation of eight villages situated near the northeastern border with Turkey on Saturday. A further five villages were evacuated on Sunday with strong fire warnings for Monday in the regions close to Athens, and other parts of southern Greece.

No immediate reports of injuries to either residents or firefighters have surfaced.

According to the fire service, the blaze was proving difficult to contain despite the efforts of over 200 firefighters. These firefighters were aided by a squadron of 16 water-dropping planes and three helicopters, reported Ekathimerini.

Additional personnel were dispatched from different parts of the country to provide reinforcements.

Greece’s Minister for Civil Protection, Vassilis Kikilias, said firefighters, police, army personnel and volunteers were “waging an intense battle” in the Alexandroupoli area on Sunday.

“No outdoors work that could trigger a fire will be permitted,” he said. “We must all protect our country.”

Inhabitants of Alexandroupoli were advised to shut their windows due to the smoke that had enveloped the town from the fire’s direction.

The ignition of the forest fire transpired in the early hours of Saturday, originating near the village of Melia, located to the east of Alexandroupoli. Authorities acknowledged that two of the evacuated villages sustained property damages.

An inside view of a burnt church after a wildfire in a village near the northeastern town of Alexandroupolis, Greece, Sunday, August 20. Photo: Ilias Kotsireas.

The situation led to the temporary closure of a significant segment of a major highway in the vicinity, prompted by the dense smoke that had engulfed the area.

Attributing the escalating frequency and intensity of wildfires across Europe to climate change, European Union officials highlighted that 2022 marked the second most severe year for wildfire-related destruction on record, second only to 2017.

In a separate incident, a smaller wildfire was reported to be ablaze near Thessaloniki, the second-largest city in Greece, located in the northern part of the country. In preceding developments, firefighters successfully managed to bring a blaze under control on the western island of Cephalonia.

The fire service has issued a high alert for wildfire risk over the weekend.

Source: Ekathimerini

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