Greek firefighters battle forest blaze near Athens


ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek firefighters battled for a third day on Friday a wind-driven blaze that burned through pine forests about 60 km (37 miles) west of the capital Athens and forced hundreds of people to evacuate from their homes.

Firefighters battled overnight to contain the fire that burned homes as black smoke filled the sky above costal villages where police was calling on citizens to leave. More than 10 villages and two monasteries have already been evacuated.

“We are optimistic that during the day, with the improved weather conditions, the fire will be contained,” Deputy Citizens’ Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias told a briefing.

The blaze broke out in a forest at a small seaside holiday resort on the Gulf of Corinth on Wednesday and moved eastward into the western Attica province on Thursday, fanned by strong winds.

No deaths or injuries were reported as some 270 firefighters, 18 airplanes, three helicopters, municipal staff and volunteers sought to extinguish the fire. There have been no estimates yet of the value of damages.

Greece has bitter memories of a 2018 blaze that tore through the seaside town of Mati near Athens, killing 102 people in a matter of hours.

The country often faces wildfires during its dry summer months that also mark the peak of the tourism season. Environmental campaigners say an increasing number of wildfires around the world is a symptom of climate change.

(Reporting by Vassilis Triandafyllou and Lefteris Papadimas, Editing by Gabriela Baczynska)

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