Thousands flee blaze on outskirts of Athens

Greek authorities say there are 56 active wildfires in the country

Thousands fled from the outskirts of Athens on Friday as firefighters battled dozens of wildfires that have struck Greece this week.

A hospital in the Greek capital confirmed the first fatality from the devastating fires after a 38-year-old man was hit by a falling utility pole in Ippokrateios Politeia, an area north of Athens affected by the fires.

Deputy civil protection minister Nikos Hardalias said there were 56 active wildfires on Friday, from the Peloponnese to the island of Evia near Athens.

“We are continuing our efforts, hour by hour, to tackle multiple fires today. Conditions are extremely dangerous,” he said.

A week-long heatwave sparked the wildfires in Greece, while neighbouring Turkey has also been hit by a devastating series of blazes.

Evia’s deputy governor George Kelaiditis called it “the biggest catastrophe in Evia in 50 years,” with hundreds of houses damaged and thousands of acres of forest land burnt.

“Our country is facing an extremely critical situation,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said late on Thursday, as six of 13 regions in the country were put under high alert.

“We're facing unprecedented conditions after several days of heatwave have turned the country into a powder keg.”

North of Athens, a strong blaze tore through vast areas of pine forest, forcing more evacuations of villages overnight and blowing thick smoke over the capital.

Updated: August 6th 2021, 5:11 PM