Greece: New forest fires break out near Athens

Greece: New forest fires break out near Athens
Greece: New forest fires break out near Athens

New wildfires erupted in Greece on Monday, with two fires leading to the evacuation of residents from settlements southeast and northwest of the Greek capital.

Driven by strong winds, the first fire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea area southeast of Athens quickly engulfed the bushes and headed towards the national park in the Sounion area.

Three localities in the area were ordered to be evacuated, and the fire department dispatched dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four helicopters. Local authorities urged people to stay away from the area.

On the other side of the capital, in the north-west, in the Viliya area, another fire broke out in the afternoon, as a result of which the evacuation of three more settlements was announced. Strong winds are predicted to blow until at least evening, which could make it difficult to fight the fire.

Greece has been engulfed in hundreds of wildfires for nearly two weeks, following the worst heatwave in decades in the country, which has left forests dry and rapidly spreading fires over vast areas.

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural land were destroyed, homes and businesses burned down, thousands of people were evacuated by land and sea. One volunteer firefighter was killed and four were hospitalized, including two critically ill in intensive care units.

The fires limited Greece's ability to deal with the aftermath to the limit, prompting the government to seek international assistance. About 24 European and Middle Eastern countries sent firefighters, helicopters, planes and cars. By Monday, most of them had left, although 40 Austrian firefighters remained in the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese, where two large fires have been blazing for several days.

In recent weeks, several Mediterranean countries have been suffering from intense heat and rapidly spreading wildfires, including Turkey and Italy. In Algeria, wildfires in the mountainous Berber region have killed at least 69 people.