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Thousands Evacuated as Fires in Greece Rage On

Greek government seeks emergency help from EU
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 7, 2021 1:25 PM CDT
Thousands Evacuated as Fires Rampage Through Greek Forests
People embark a ferry during an evacuation from Kochyli beach as wildfire approaches near Limni village on the island of Evia, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Athens, Greece, Friday.   (AP Photo/Thodoris Nikolaou)

(Newser) – Wildfires rampaged through some of Greece’s last remaining forests for yet another day Saturday, encroaching on more inhabited areas after burning scores of homes, businesses, and farms during the country's worst heat wave in three decades. One of the massive fires threatened the Greek capital’s most important national park and sent choking smoke across the Athens region, where authorities set up a hotline for residents with breathing problems, per the AP. Thousands of residents and vacationers in areas where fires broke out days ago have fled by land and by sea. In apocalyptic scenes overnight and into Saturday morning, ferries evacuated 1,153 people from a seaside village and beaches on Evia, an island of rugged, forested mountains popular with holidaymakers and campers, after approaching flames cut off all other means of escape. People clutched babies and carried elderly people on chairs as they boarded the small ferries to safety. A local official in in the southern Peloponnese region of Mani, the site of another major fire, estimated that 70% of her area had been destroyed.

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“It’s a biblical catastrophe. We’re talking about three-quarters of the municipality,” East Mani Deputy Mayor Drakoulakou told state broadcaster ERT, pleading for more support from water-dropping aircraft. Fires described as the worst in decades also have swept through stretches of neighboring Turkey's southern coast for the past 10 days, killing eight people. The top Turkish forestry official said 217 fires had been brought under control since July 28 in over half of the country’s provinces, while firefighters continued working Saturday to tame six fires in two provinces. In Greece, the fire that broke out north of Athens killed a volunteer firefighter Friday. At least 20 people have been injured in blazes nationwide. The multiple fires have stretched the country's firefighting forces to the limit as crews tackled the constant rekindling of several of the blazes, including the large fire burning outside of the capital. The Greek government appealed for help through the European Union’s emergency support system. Firefighters and aircraft have arrived from France, Ukraine, Cyprus, Croatia, Sweden and Israel, with more arriving Saturday from Romania and Switzerland. Egypt said Saturday it was sending two helicopters to Greece.

(Read more wildfires stories.)

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