Greek forest fires force evacuation of residents

Two large forest fires, the first of the summer season, are burning near Athens, aided by gale-force winds of up to 40 miles an hour.

The most serious of the two fires broke out this morning in a mountain ravine near the coastal resort town of Kalamos, 28 miles north-east of Athens.

The fire is moving south-east, in the direction of the town of Marathon and the nearby Marathon Lake, which serves as a major reservoir for the Greek capital.

The village of Varnavas, south of Kalamos, has been mostly evacuated, with a few residents staying behind to help firefighters.

Dozens of fire engines, 12 planes and four helicopters are fighting the fire.

There are reports of slight damage to houses in the area. No casualties have been reported.

Another fire broke out earlier near the port of Lavrio, south-east of Athens. A slight drop in wind speed has helped firefighters contain the fire, although all aircraft were diverted to the larger fire to the north. A scout camp has been evacuated.

Forest fires regularly break out in Greece in the summer season, aided by the combination of hot, dry weather and high winds. Huge forest fires devastated a large area east of Athens in 2007.

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