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Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens

A resident takes a photograph as a fire burns a forest in Siderina village helicopter about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

More wildfires broke out Monday in hard-hit Greece, with two blazes fanned by strong winds triggering evacuation alerts for villages southeast and northwest of the Greek capital.


The first blaze, which broke out in the morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, quickly burned through shrubland and was heading toward a national park in the Sounion area.

Three communities in the area were ordered evacuated. Some residents desperately hosed down their homes, hoping to save them from the approaching flames, while volunteers armed with hoses and branches joined the battle against the blaze. The fire department sent in 91 firefighters, six water-dropping planes and six helicopters.

Dimitris Loukas, the mayor of the Lavreotiki region which encompasses the area where the fire broke out, told Greek television that arson was suspected as the cause. He said local residents had reported seeing someone in a car setting a dumpster on fire in the area before driving quickly away. Loukas said authorities were looking into the reports.

On the other side of the capital, to the northwest, another blaze broke out in the Vilia area, triggering an evacuation alert for seven other villages. Strong winds were predicted to last until at least the evening, potentially hampering the firefighting effort.

Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
An helicopter drops water over a fire in Siderina village helicopter about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

More than 60 firefighters there were being supported by eight water-dropping planes and five helicopters.

Greece has been roiled by hundreds of wildfires this month, with the blazes coming on the heels of the country’s most severe heat wave in decades, which left its forests tinder dry.

Tens of thousands of hectares of forest and farmland have been destroyed, homes and businesses have been burned and thousands of people had to be evacuated by land or by sea. One volunteer firefighter died and four other firefighters have been hospitalized, including two in critical condition with burns.

On Monday, Greece’s civil protection chief, Nikos Hardalias, who coordinates the fight against wildfires as well as the country’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, was urgently taken to an Athens hospital where he underwent unscheduled heart surgery. A health ministry statement said the angioplasty was successful.

Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
A fire burns a forest near a house in Siderina village helicopter about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

The fires have stretched Greece’s response capabilities to the limit, leading the government to appeal for international help. About 24 European and Mideast countries sent firefighters, helicopters, planes and vehicles. By Monday most had left, although 40 Austrian firefighters remained in the southern Greek region of the Peloponnese, where two major fires have been burning for several days.

Several Mediterranean countries have suffered intense heat and quickly spreading wildfires in recent weeks, including Turkey, where at least 16 people have died, and Italy, which saw several deaths. In Algeria, wildfires in the mountainous Berber region have killed at least 69 people.

Worsening drought and heat have also fueled wildfires this summer in the western United States and in Russia’s northern Siberia region. In all of Russia, some 15 million acres have burned this year.

  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    A fire burns a forest near a house in Siderina village about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    An helicopter operates during a wildfire in Agios Konstantinos village about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    Police patrol during a wildfire in Agios Konstantinos village about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    Residents gather outside a house during a wildfire in Agios Konstantinos about 60 kilometeres (37 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    An aircraft drops water over a fire in Siderina village helicopter about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    Residents stand outside their house as a fire burns a forest in Siderina village helicopter about 55 kilometers (34 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    Police patrol during a wildfire in Agios Konstantinos village about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
  • Greece wildfires: 2 new blazes burning outside of Athens
    An helicopter operates over Markati village about 60 kilometers (37 miles) south of Athens, Greece, Monday, Aug. 16, 2021. Greek authorities have deployed dozens of firefighters, as well as six water-dropping planes and four aircraft to a wildfire that broke out Monday morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, near the national park of Sounion. Credit: AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme weather events.

Two major fires that began in early August, one on the island of Evia and another in a national park north of Athens, were still smoldering Monday, with firefighters deployed to secure their perimeters.


Forest fires rage in Greece, threaten Olympics birthplace


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