More firefighters brought in to tackle Greek island wildfire

More firefighters brought in to tackle Greek island wildfire

Further reinforcements have been sent to firefighters battling a major forest fire in a nature reserve on the Greek island of Evia.

On the third day of the fire, 12 water planes, including two sent from Italy and one from Spain, and 11 helicopters resumed flights over the affected area, with 100 more firefighters sent in overnight, bringing the total to 382.

The fire broke out at around 3am local time on Tuesday and has ravaged the nature reserve of dense pine forest.

Water-dropping helicopters and planes have been targeting hard-to-reach areas (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)
Water-dropping helicopters and planes have been targeting hard-to-reach areas (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)

Four villages were evacuated on the first day, although some residents returned to their homes on Wednesday.

A state of emergency has been declared in the area, and Greece has requested firefighting assistance from other European countries.

On the first day of the blaze, firefighting efforts were hampered by strong winds that fanned the flames and carried smoke as far as the Greek capital Athens 45 miles away.

Those winds had died down by Thursday, but the terrain is also presenting difficulties to the firefighting efforts, with canyons and ravines running through the extremely flammable pine forest.

At least two new blazes, one in southern Greece and one on the western island of Zakynthos, also broke out on Thursday.

Almost 400 firefighters are now tackling the flames on Evia (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)
Almost 400 firefighters are now tackling the flames on Evia (Yorgos Karahalis/AP)

Separately, the fire department said two men aged 52 and 58 were arrested on Wednesday and Thursday on suspicion of arson in two separate cases in southern Greece.

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 burning weeds or lighting campfires and barbecues.

Last summer, more than 100 people died when a fast-moving forest fire broke out in a seaside area north-east of Athens and raged through the holiday home settlement of Mati.

The wildfire trapped many people in homes, on narrow paths and in their cars as they attempted to flee, while others drowned while trying to swim away from the heat and choking smoke engulfing beaches.

- Press Association

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