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Greek firefighters battle wildfires for second day amid strong winds

Published 06/30/2024, 04:05 AM
Updated 06/30/2024, 04:31 PM
© Reuters. A firefighting helicopter operates, as a wildfire burns on Mount Parnitha, near Athens, Greece, June 29, 2024. REUTERS/Elias Marcou

By Elias Marcou and Giorgos Moutafis

ATHENS (Reuters) -Greek firefighters were battling two wildfires near Athens on Sunday amid strong winds, just hours after managing to contain blazes in a mountainous area also near the capital as well as on an island in the Aegean Sea.

Dozens of firefighters in full gear, backed by 23 water-carrying aircraft, fought with hoses to tame a fire in a sparsely-populated area near the town of Keratea, some 35 kms (22 miles) south of Athens.

Authorities had ordered evacuations before flames from burning pine and olive trees engulfed houses.

Another fire in the community of Stamata north of Athens burned a lush pine forest, sending columns of smoke over parts of the city.

It did not threaten houses so far.

With hot, windy conditions across much of Greece, dozens of wildfires broke out over the weekend and people were advised to stay away from forested areas.

Firefighters were still engaged on the island of Serifos where a fire had broken out amid low vegetation on Saturday and spread quickly, fanned by strong winds, damaging houses and prompting the evacuation of several hamlets.

The wildfire, which at one point had raged across 15 kms (9.3 miles), damaged holiday homes and storehouses, the island's mayor, Kostas Revinthis, told Greek television.

Another fire in the mountainous forest of Parnitha near a nature reserve just outside Athens had eased by Sunday morning, officials said.

© Reuters. Stamata, near Athens, Greece, June 30, 2024. REUTERS/Giorgos Moutafis

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country but have become more devastating in recent years as summers have become hotter, drier and windier, which scientists link to the effects of climate change.

After last summer's deadly forest fires and following its warmest winter on record, Greece developed a new doctrine, which includes deploying an extra fire engine to each new blaze, speeding up air support and clearing forests.

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