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Wildfires burn outside Athens, villages evacuated

wildfire on the island of evia
File photo from the wildfires in Evia earlier this month REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Two wildfires, fanned by strong winds, raged out of control near Athens on Monday, forcing the evacuation of villages, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

More than 500 wildfires have broken out in recent weeks across Greece, which, like other countries in the Mediterranean region including Turkey and Tunisia, has seen some of its highest temperatures in decades.

On Monday, a blaze broke out on a mountain near the port town of Lavrio, about 60 km (40 miles) south of Athens, sending thick plumes of smoke above a busy beach, where windsurfers were riding the waves.

At least 91 firefighters, assisted by six water-bombing planes and six helicopters, tried to contain the fire, which broke out in an area of low vegetation and spread to pine trees. Three villages were ordered to evacuate.

A separate blaze broke out in a forested area near the village of Vilia north of the capital, close to a children’s summer camp, authorities said. Five helicopters and five firefighting planes were dispatched there. Vilia is just over 50 km from Athens.

The biggest fire, on the island of Evia near the capital, burned for more than a week earlier in August before being contained, ravaging swathes of forest in the island’s north and forcing the evacuation of thousands of people by sea.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has apologised for failures in tackling the fires. The government announced a 500-million-euro aid package for Evia and the Attica region around Athens.

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