Wildfires continue to rage in Greece and Turkey, firefighter killed

Wildfires continue to rage in Greece and Turkey, firefighter killed
Wildfires continue to rage in Greece and Turkey, firefighter killed

Wildfires raged uncontrollably in Greece and Turkey until Friday evening, forcing thousands of people to flee by land and sea and killing a volunteer firefighter on the outskirts of Athens in a massive wildfire that threatened the Greek capital's most important national park. Eight people have died in the worst wildfires in decades that have engulfed Turkey's southern coast over the past 10 days.

In Greece, which has set record heat waves, civil defense chief Nikos Hardalias said firefighters faced "extremely dangerous, unprecedented conditions" while fighting 154 wildfires on Friday, 64 of which continued to burn into the night.

“In the past few days, we have faced an unprecedented situation in our country related to the intensity and widespread distribution of wildfires, as well as new outbreaks throughout Greece,” he said at an evening briefing. "I want to assure you that all the forces available are participating in the fight."

Orders were issued to evacuate dozens of villages on the mainland and the nearby island of Evia, as well as outlying settlements on the wooded outskirts of Athens.

Fires outside Athens and Evia changed direction repeatedly, in some cases returning to areas that narrowly escaped destruction earlier this week due to shifting winds and new fires on Friday afternoon.

Passing through forests and homes to Lake Marathon, the capital's main reservoir, the fire headed for Mount Parnitha National Park - one of the last significant remaining forests near Athens, which already has deep scars from the 2007 wildfires.

A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed after a falling power pole hit him in the head in a blazing area north of Athens, officials said. At least 20 people across the country required medical attention.

In the village of Limni on the island of Euboea, more than 1,000 residents were called to rush to the port and await boarding a ferry after the flames cut off all other escape routes. One ferry picked up 650 people, and two more were on their way to the site, Coast Guard officials said.

Earlier in the day and late Thursday, the Coast Guard evacuated about 700 residents and holidaymakers from other parts of the island using patrol boats, fishing boats and other private vessels.

“We're talking about an apocalypse, I don't know how to describe it,” Sotiris Danikas, head of the coast guard in Aydipsos, Evia, said in an interview with the state broadcaster ERT, referring to a previous naval evacuation.

The Coast Guard vessel also rescued another 10 people trapped on the beach by another fire near the town of Gythio in the southern Peloponnese region.

In Italy, firefighters fighting a wildfire in the province of Reggio Calabria found the bodies of a man and a woman in an olive grove. News agency LaPresse said they died from smoke inhalation.

Massive fires have been blazing in Siberia in northern Russia for weeks now, and hot, dry, gusty weather has also sparked devastating wildfires in California.

Greece experienced the longest heat wave in three decades, with temperatures rising to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit), although it was cooler on Friday.

At least 20 people were injured. Two firefighters were in intensive care in Athens, two more were hospitalized with minor burns.

More than 1,000 firefighters and nearly 20 aircraft are now fighting major fires across Greece, with additional firefighters, planes, helicopters and vehicles arriving from France, Switzerland, Romania, Cyprus, Croatia, Israel and Sweden.

In Turkey, authorities on Friday evacuated six more neighborhoods near the city of Milas in Mugla province, as a wildfire, fanned by winds, blazed about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the power plant. Two more areas were evacuated as a precaution later that day, when another fire spread from the Yatagan area in Mugla to the outskirts of neighboring Aydin province further north.

In Mugla province alone, at least 36,000 people have been evacuated, officials said.

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