Greece and Turkey travel alert: Summer wildfires plague Athens outskirts, Turkey villages; evacuations ordered | Travel - Hindustan Times
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Greece and Turkey travel alert: Summer wildfires plague Athens outskirts, Turkey villages; evacuations ordered

AP | | Posted by Zarafshan Shiraz, Athens, Greece
Jun 20, 2024 09:42 AM IST

Travelling to Athens? Watch out as Greece and Turkey battle summer wildfires; evacuations ordered, arson suspected

Scores of Greek firefighters and water-bombing aircraft succeeded late Wednesday in taming a large wildfire on the fringes of Athens that forced authorities to evacuate two nearby settlements.

Firefighters and volunteers try to tackle a wildfire burning near the village of Resta on the island of Chios, Greece. Greece and Turkey travel alert: Summer wildfires plague Athens outskirts, Turkey villages; evacuations ordered (Photo by REUTERS/Konstantinos Anagnostou)
Firefighters and volunteers try to tackle a wildfire burning near the village of Resta on the island of Chios, Greece. Greece and Turkey travel alert: Summer wildfires plague Athens outskirts, Turkey villages; evacuations ordered (Photo by REUTERS/Konstantinos Anagnostou)

Summer wildfires also plagued Greece's Mediterranean neighbour Turkey, where two villages were evacuated but no injuries were reported.

The Greek fire service said the blaze near Athens — one of dozens all over the country Wednesday — had been largely contained but firefighters would remain on alert all evening to stop it reviving.

Officials said the wildfire was exacerbated by windy, hot and dry weather and appeared to have been deliberately started.

It broke out in low scrub and olive trees in a sparsely inhabited area near Vari, some 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of central Athens.

Fire service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis said winds at times reached gale force, while police were enlisted to remove some residents from their homes.

Local authorities also said the fire appeared to be abating late Wednesday.

“The situation is being brought under control,” local mayor Dimitris Kioussis told state-run ERT television. “I hope that in the next two hours everything will be over.”

No injuries were reported. ERT showed a burnt-out home, as well as destroyed plastic boats in a yacht and speedboat parking area. The fire service said it was too early to confirm reports of damage to businesses and homes.

More than 140 firefighters, assisted by 16 water-dropping planes and helicopters, worked to control the blaze.

The surrounding area is dotted with hundreds of scattered buildings, both homes and businesses.

Vassilis Kikilias, the minister for climate crisis and civil protection, said arson was strongly suspected.

“Investigators are in possession of visual material that clearly shows an arsonist starting the fire in dry undergrowth,” he said. “A can of petrol was found nearby.”

Dozens of wildfires have broken out in Greece in recent days amid scorching summer temperatures, but they were extinguished before causing extensive damage. Several people were arrested and charged with accidentally starting the blazes.

Vathrakogiannis, the fire service spokesman, said Wednesday was “a very difficult day” due to the weather conditions.

“In the past few hours we’ve been constantly getting new fires — almost one every ten minutes,” he said. “Most were dealt with immediately.”

The greater Athens area has been declared at a high risk of fire Thursday too.

Wildfires are common in Greece’s dry, hot summers, and have caused scores of deaths in recent years. Authorities have warned of a particularly high risk this summer following a dry, warm winter that has left vegetation tinder-dry.

Firefighters and aircraft were battling another major fire in the southern Peloponnese region that forced the evacuation of a village, as well as blazes in central Greece and on eastern Aegean Sea island of Lesbos.

Earlier the fire service extinguished blazes east of Athens, and on the Aegean islands of Evia and Naxos — where a man was arrested on suspicion of accidentally starting the fire.

In Turkey, officials said Wednesday they had brought under control two wildfires in the historic Gallipoli peninsula and Eceabat, both in the northwestern Canakkale province. Hundreds of firefighters and volunteers, assisted by 15 water-dropping aircraft, battled the blazes that broke out Tuesday. The Eceabat blaze reportedly started when a fire started to burn agricultural waste accidentally spread into a forest.

Two villages in Gallipoli were evacuated as a precaution, officials said. The area was the scene of heavy fighting during World War I, and many historic monuments in Gallipoli were temporarily closed to visitors due to the fire.

Another four blazes were reported Wednesday in western Turkey.

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This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
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