Residents and tourists flee Greek wildfires

Gusts of wind up to 70kph are pushing fire further into towns

Wildfires cause chaos in Greece

Wildfires cause chaos in Greece
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High wind pushed fires through hillside scrub and pine forests parched by extreme heat outside Athens on Monday, forcing thousands to flee seaside resorts, closing motorways and gutting holiday homes.

At least six seaside communities in Greece received evacuation orders as two major wildfires edged closer to summer resort towns and gusts of wind hit 70kph.

The army, police special forces and volunteer rescuers moved retirees from their homes, rescued horses from a stable and helped monks to flee a monastery threatened by the flames.

Before nightfall, water-dropping planes and helicopters tackled the flames near Lagonisi, about 40km south-east of the capital.

The second large wildfire broke out in a wooded area near the resort town of Loutraki, about 90km west of Athens, where a children's summer camp and rehabilitation centre for seniors were evacuated, local officials said.

Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said the strong and changeable winds and mountain terrain in which both fires broke out were slowing firefighters.

“The conditions are changing constantly and this has to be matched by our response. We have ordered multiple evacuations,” Mr Artopios said.

Those evacuated gathered along the coast or were put up in schools and hotels, while coast guard vessels were sent to smoke-heavy beachfronts to assist if needed.

On a visit to Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis described the risk posed by wildfires this month as “extremely difficult” to deal with.

“We have always had wildfires and we always will have them," Mr Mitsotakis said.

"But with the effects of the climate crisis, we are experiencing fires with increasing intensity."

He was in Belgium for talks between leaders from the EU and Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Greater Athens and much of southern Greece were on the second highest level of alert for wildfires on Monday and Tuesday, after a four-day heatwave that eased over the weekend.

More high temperatures are expected later in the week.

Residents and visitors in areas affected by the two fires received mobile phone alerts from the Civil Protection Ministry.

Loutraki Mayor Giorgos Gionis said municipal workers were also assisting seniors in moving to safety, adding that the operation had been impeded by cuts to mobile phone reception.

Local officials said homes had been destroyed and badly damaged in both fires.

Updated: July 18, 2023, 10:15 AM