Firefighters Battle Blazes Near Athens

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 24, 2009 6:41 AM CDT
Residents watch a fire fighting helicopter drop water on a burning forest at Agios Stephanos, a suburb north of Athens, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2009.   (Nikolas Giakoumidis)
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(Newser) – Fire crews outside Athens are scrambling to exploit a lull in high winds as they fight massive wildfires that broke out Friday and have razed about 58 square miles north of the Greek capital. The flames are still spreading, and a dozen nuns had to be rescued from a convent threatened by one blaze. Up to 2,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers are involved in fighting the disaster, and aircraft have been sent from as far as France and Italy.

Other major fires have broken out across Greece in recent days, but the Athens fire has forced thousands to flee outlying areas, many on foot. Officials have not said what started the fires, which are the worst since 2007. Hundreds of forest blazes plague Greece every summer, some set intentionally by unscrupulous land developers or animal farmers seeking to expand their grazing land.