Greece Fires: Wildfire Force Evacuations on Athens Coast

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A wildfire that broke out near the Greek capital has forced the evacuation of several villages and hotels along a coastal area popular with tourists.

The fire broke out late Saturday afternoon in the Mount Parnitha area, just north of Athens. It quickly spread, fanned by strong winds, and jumped a major highway, forcing the evacuation of the seaside town of Nea Makri and the nearby settlements of Agios Panteleimonas, Vothonas and Dionysos.

At least 20 firefighting aircraft and helicopters were dropping water and retardant on the blaze, and about 500 firefighters were battling the flames on the ground. Over 100 vehicles and 500 police officers were also involved in the operation.

“The blaze is not under control. The situation is critical,” Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters.

He said the fire was spreading to forests and residential areas, and that strong winds were making it difficult for firefighting aircraft to operate.

The fire is the latest in a series of wildfires that have swept across Greece in recent weeks, destroying homes and businesses and forcing thousands of people to evacuate. Wildfires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summer months, but climate change is making them more frequent and more intense.

Last year, a wildfire in the coastal town of Mati, east of Athens, killed 102 people and destroyed hundreds of homes. In 2007, wildfires in southern Greece killed 65 people and destroyed over 200,000 acres of land.

The Greek government has been criticized for its handling of wildfires in the past, and there have been calls for improved prevention and response措施.

On Sunday morning, the fire was still burning out of control, and firefighters were struggling to contain it. The evacuation of Nea Makri and the other affected areas remained in place, and residents were being advised to stay indoors and keep their windows closed.

The fire has caused extensive damage to forests and property, but there have been no reports of any injuries or deaths so far.

The cause of the fire is under investigation..

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