Athens blanketed in smoke as firefighters evacuate villages endangered by three wildfires

Athens blanketed in smoke as firefighters evacuate villages endangered by three wildfires
A huge cloud of smoke rises from a forest fire at Psachna village on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, today. Pic: AP

Hundreds of firefighters battled three wildfires in Greece, where two villages were being evacuated as the largest blaze burned a thickly forested nature reserve on the island of Evia north of Athens.

More than 220 firefighters were deployed to tackle the Evia fire, along with six water-dropping planes and six helicopters.

Access to the pine forest by land was difficult, and an additional helicopter was sent to the area to coordinate the air support.

Smoke from the fire blanketed the Greek capital.

The country’s civil protection authority warned people in affected areas, particularly the elderly, young children and those suffering from breathing or heart conditions, to remain indoors and set air conditioning units to recycle internal air.

Dozens more firefighters, two planes and a helicopter tackled a separate forest fire on the northern island of Thassos.

A third wildfire was burning through brush and dried weeds near Thebes, northwest of Athens.

Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summer months.

Authorities have repeatedly warned the public not to engage in outdoor activities that could cause fires, such as welding work, burning dried weeds or lighting campfires and barbecues.

Parks and forest areas have been closed to the public at times of high fire risk.

Last year, more than 100 people died when a fast-moving forest fire broke out in a seaside area northeast of Athens and raged through a nearby settlement of mainly holiday homes.

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.

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