Greek firefighters battle forest blaze for third day

Hundreds of firefighters have battled a forest fire west of Greece’s capital Athens for a third day, and brought the main front of the blaze under control as weather conditions improved.

Backed by 16 aircraft and by the army, more than 270 firefighters fought the fire on the Geraneia mountain range, described by authorities as “one of the biggest” in decades.

Speaking to local ANT1 television on Saturday, fire chief Stefanos Kolokouris said better weather conditions had allowed firefighters to bring the main front of the outbreak under control late on Friday, but there remain “several active and scattered” blazes.

No injuries have been reported, but a number of houses have been damaged or destroyed and a dozen villages and hamlets have been evacuated.Euthymios Lekkas, professor of environmental disaster management at the University of Athens, said the fires about 90 kilometres (55 miles) from Athens have burnt more than 55 square kilometres (21 square miles) of pine forest and other land, some of it agricultural.


“It’s a huge ecological disaster that needs work to avoid landslides and terrible flooding in the autumn,” he told ERT public television.

The scale of the damage, notably for farmers, will only be clear once the fire is completely under control, the civil protection agency said.

It said the blaze started late on Wednesday near the village of Schinos close to the resort of Loutraki in the Corinthian Gulf, apparently by someone burning vegetation in an olive grove.

Smoke from the fire choked Athens with ash falling from the sky. It was the first forest fire of the season.

Greece faces violent forest fires every summer, fanned by dry weather, strong winds and temperatures that often soar well above 30 C (86 Fahrenheit).

In 2018, 102 people died in the coastal resort of Mati, near Athens, in Greece’s worst-ever fire disaster.

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