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16 June, 2024
 
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Evacuations ordered NW of Athens as blaze ravages villages

Authorities battle multiple fronts as strong winds fuel destructive fires

Source: AP

Greek authorities ordered the evacuation of two villages in the central Viotia region, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Athens after a forest fire broke out Monday morning. The coast guard put two patrol boats and several fishing boats and private vessels on standby in case an evacuation by sea was necessary.

Authorities said the body of a man was recovered from a sheep pen in the area under evacuation, with local media reporting the man apparently died of smoke inhalation while trying to save his livestock.

In the northeast of the country near the border with Turkey, strong winds rekindled flames on several fronts in a major wildfire burning for a third day across forests and farmland near the town of Alexandroupoli.

Several homes were destroyed over the weekend. Thirteen villages were evacuated, while more than 200 firefighters, assisted by 16 water-dropping planes and seven helicopters, volunteers and the armed forces were battling the fire, government spokesman Pavlos Marinakis said.

Cyprus was sending two firefighting aircraft to help tackle the Alexandroupolis blaze, including four crew and five ground support staff.

With gale-force winds blowing in several parts of the country, authorities set the fire risk level in several regions, including that of the Greek capital, to “extreme.”

“The [firefighting] system is on alert, and we must be too. The risk of wildfires remains high,” Marinakis said.

Greece suffers destructive wildfires every summer, which officials say have been exacerbated by climate change.

The deadliest Greek wildfire on record killed 104 people in 2018, in a seaside resort near Athens that residents had not been warned to evacuate. Since then, authorities have erred on the side of caution, issuing swift mass evacuation orders whenever inhabited areas are under threat.

Last month a wildfire on the resort island of Rhodes forced the evacuation of some 20,000 tourists. Days later, two air force pilots were killed when their water-dropping plane crashed while diving low to tackle a blaze on the island of Evia. Another three wildfire-related deaths have been recorded this summer.

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