Hundreds flee homes as wildfire rages near Athens and on Evia Island in Greece, 150 homes destroyed to date
Hundreds of residents living near a forest area north of Athens fled their homes as a wildfire reached residential areas, fuelled by Greece’s worst heatwave in decades. Amid scorching temperatures during Greece's worst heatwave in over 30 years, more than 300 fire fighters with 35 vehicles and 10 aircraft are battling the blaze at the foothills of Parnitha Mountain in the Athens suburb of Varympompi. Dozens of towns and villages have been evacuated since Tuesday, from the outskirts of Athens to the island of Evia near the capital, and in the Peloponnese, as a protracted heatwave and strengthening winds fuelled more than 150 wildfires in recent days. On Evia, more than a dozen villages have been evacuated since Tuesday, with some 85 people rescued by boat from a beach, as the wildfire scorched pine trees and sent clouds of ash and smoke into the air.
Authorities cleared more people from the Greek island of Evia on Thursday as church bells sounded a warning and more than 170 fire fighters with 52 engines and six aircraft were operating in the area. At least 150 houses have been destroyed by the wildfire that surrounded a monastery and a dozen villages, one of over 100 willldfires burning in the country.
On Evia, the huge flames leaping up from the forest could be seen from the sea. Fire fighters said it was a difficult blaze to control on an island of rolling hills with little visibility.
Three monks from Saint David Monastery had refused to leave, they added but everyone had been evacuated from nearby villages.
The armed forces announced the doubling of fire patrols this month and offered vehicles to help with evacuations.
The wildfire on Tuesday, 3 August 2021, sent smoke over the capital and prompted multiple evacuations near Tatoi, 20km north of Athens. Many residents left their homes in cars and on motorcycles and headed towards the capital as smoke blanketed residential areas. “It is a large fire and it will take a lot of work to get this under control,” greater Athens Regional Governor George Patoulis said. “People in the area should be on stand-by. We are asking members of the public in the fire-affected areas to keep the windows of their homes closed because the smoke is very dense.”
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said authorities were doing "whatever is humanly possible" to tackle wildfires burning across Greece for the third day on Thursday, including near the ancient site of the first Olympic Games.
The Civil Protection Authority issued an "extreme fire warning" for Friday as temperatures continued to hover around 40 degrees Celsius.
As the heatwave scorching the eastern Mediterranean intensified, temperatures reached 42 degrees Celsius in parts of the Greek capital.
The extreme weather has fuelled deadly wildfires in Turkey, as well as fires in Greece, Albania, Italy and across the region.
The extreme heat has strained the national power supply and fuelled the wildfires.
Experts have warned that climate change was increasing both the frequency and intensity of the wildfires.
The current wildfires can be associated with not only higher temperatures but also lower precipitation. Dry wood burns more easily and more quickly, making the wildfires more severe and allowing them to spread more quickly.
Sources: Al Jazeera, ITV,