#Greece battles wildfire on Evia island, smoke blankets #Athens

Remigio Civitarese
Agosto 14, 2019

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis interrupted his holiday on Crete to return to Athens where he was briefed on the situation.

A large wildfire blown by strong winds destroyed areas of forest on the Greek island of Evia on Tuesday morning, and Greek authorities are now preparing to evacuate surrounding villages.

Reports said that Greece has requested assistance from the European Union's civil protection agency.

Authorities evacuated some 500 residents from the villages of Kontodespoti and Makrymalli as the flames neared homes, officials said.

The PM acknowledged that the country's fire crews had had a gruelling five-day stretch, with the fire department noting that 56 fires had broken out over the past 24 hours alone.

A huge cloud of smoke rise from a forest fire at Psachna village on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, Aug. 13, 2019.

Wildfires raged uncontrolled in at least four other Greek regions, and the fire brigade said it had been called to put out 182 fires in the last three days.

A separate blaze broke out on the north part of Evia, and 15 firefighters, a helicopter and a small plane worked to keep it from spreading.

Dozens more firefighters were tackling a forest fire on the northern island of Thassos. A third wildfire was burning through brush and dried weeds near Thebes, northwest of Athens, while another broke out in southern Greece, burning woodland and agricultural areas. The fire trapped people in their cars as they attempted to flee, while many other victims drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches overcome by heat and choking smoke.

Greece is often faced with wildfires in the dry summer months, just previous year a wildfire killed 100 people in Mati, Athens.

Parks and forest areas are sometimes closed to the public at times of high fire risk.

Yorgos Karahalis and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Evia, Greece, contributed.

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