Major Wildfire Near Athens Spurs Evacuations

Wildfire in Greece
Flames burn trees during a wildfire in Kalyvia, southeast of Athens, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. Greek firefighters, backed by water-dropping aircraft, were battling a string of wildfires near Athens and in other parts of the country Wednesday with efforts hampered by strong winds that whipped on the flames. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities ordered thousands of homes near Athens evacuated Wednesday as a large wildfire raged out of control among scattered country residences, damaging buildings while strong winds that whipped up the flames hampered efforts to contain the blaze.

No injuries were reported from the fire southeast of the capital near Keratea, which was the worst of the 71 forest fires that the fire service said broke out in various parts of Greece since late Tuesday.

The nearby towns of Anavyssos and Palia Fokea were ordered evacuated as a precaution as flames headed in their direction, together with some smaller settlements in the area. Authorities providing detailed escape routes by road.

Fire service and local authorities said it was unclear how many buildings had been damaged in the Keratea blaze. Thick smoke in the area reduced visibility, but there were no immediate reports of gutted homes.

A photographer for The Associated Press saw at least two homes that had suffered damage.

The fire service said about 180 firefighters were trying to contain the wildfire raging through forest, olive groves, scrub and vineyards, assisted by eight water-dropping helicopters and five planes, as well as local volunteers.

Other wildfires were burning on the islands of Andros and Thassos, and in two locations in the southern Peloponnese region where authorities ordered the evacuation of a village. Firefighters contained a blaze at the seaside resort of Nea Makri east of Athens and on the island of Crete.

Wildfires are common during Greece’s hot, arid summers. In 2018, a major blaze that swept through the seaside Mati resort, near Nea Makri, caused 102 deaths.

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