Athens fire recedes but heatwave fuels big blaze on Evia island

by Reuters
Wednesday, 4 August 2021 09:40 GMT

(Updates throughout)

By Giorgos Moutafis and Angeliki Koutantou

ATHENS, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A wildfire which set homes and cars on fire on the outskirts of Athens and forced residents to flee was receding on Wednesday, authorities said, but extreme temperatures fuelled another blaze on an island near the capital.

With Greece facing its most severe heatwave in 30 years, Athens residents were told to stay indoors as a thick cloud of smoke covered the sky from Tuesday's fire.

"There is no active front right now," fire brigade spokesman Vasilis Vathrakogiannis told ANT1 TV. "There are so many forces present so rekindling will be tackled effectively."

More than 500 firefighters were dispatched on the lower slopes of Mount Parnitha on the outskirts of Athens, assisted by nine helicopters, five aircraft, police and the army in a densely vegetated area in the region of Acharnes.

Vathrakogiannis said Greece was also expecting fire-fighting reinforcements from Cyprus.

The fire started on Tuesday in the town of Varympompi, 20 km north of central Athens, and spread to nearby towns.

"I saved the animals, that's why I stayed here," said one resident, Panagiotis, standing among scorched cars and blackened pine trees. "There were explosions in homes, cars."

Another wildfire was raging in the northern part of Evia island, about 70 km (44 miles) from Athens, forcing authorities to evacuate many villages since late Tuesday.

Some 95 firemen with 35 engines and five aircraft were battling the Evia blaze which was mainly burning forest land.

"Thank God we haven't had any loss of human life so far," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said after an inspection visit at a fire brigade coordination center in Varympompi earlier on Wednesday.

Temperatures have been over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in Greece since the weekend.

Europe faces a summer of extreme weather, from heavy flooding in the north to the severe heatwaves and fires that have engulfed several areas in the Mediterranean, with Greece's neighbour Turkey battling fires for the past week. (Editing by Timothy Heritage)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.