#GreeceOnFire : Fires rip through outskirts of Athens

July 18, 2015 3:19 am

 Smoke
rises over Hymettus district of the eastern suburbs of Athens on
Friday, July 17, 2015. The blaze is moving fast, fanned by strong winds.
Firefighters in battle. Photo / Anadolu Agency

Greek firefighters battled large in the south, on the outskirts
of Athens and on an island near the capital Friday as flames fed by
strong winds forced the evacuation of villages and summer camps.
About 200 people trapped by one fire were plucked off a beach by rescue boats.
In all, firefighters were battling 59 fire fronts, mainly in southern Greece and near the capital.

A man runs away from a fire progressing in Athens on July 17, 2015. Photo / Anadolu Agency
A man runs away from a fire progressing in Athens on July 17, 2015. Photo / Anadolu Agency
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greece had requested
help from his country’s army and air force, as well as the European
emergency response center, to fight the blazes.
France was
sending two Canadair firefighting aircraft and a Beechcraft
reconnaissance plane along with expert teams, French Interior Minister
Bernard Cazeneuve said. The aircraft and teams were to fly to Greece on
Saturday. France helped Greece fight forest fires in August 2014.

Tsipras was holding an emergency meeting Friday night with the
head of the armed forces, the defence and interior ministers, the head
of the civil protection agency and the head of Greece’s secret services.
defence
Minister Panos Kammenos said it was likely that at least some of the
fires were the result of arson, and ordered the armed forces to patrol
forests and woodlands across the country as a preventative measure.

People and firefighters run away from a fire progressing in Athens on July 17, 2015. Photo / Anadolu Agency
People and firefighters run away from a fire progressing in Athens on July 17, 2015. Photo / Anadolu Agency
“All forces are on alert,” Tsipras said, noting that the hot, dry and windy conditions were making firefighting more difficult.
The
most severe fire was a massive blaze in the Lakonia area in the
Peloponnese, southern Greece, where at least three villages were
evacuated.
Rescue boats battled gale-force winds to reach about
200 people who had taken refuge in a bay, ferrying them to safety, the
coast guard said. Twelve other people were rescued from a separate
beach, it said.
Two helicopters, 120 firefighters and nearly 30
soldiers were fighting the Lakonia blaze, which local media said burned
through electric pylons, cutting off electricity to the southern island
of Kythira. Two pilots were slightly injured when their firefighting
plane had to make an emergency landing.
Another major fire burned
across a large swathe of Mount Ymittos on the outskirts of the Greek
capital, blanketing parts of southern Athens in smoke and threatening
houses in outlying neighborhoods. Strong winds fanned the flames across
the mountainside, hampering efforts by water-dropping planes and
helicopters that continued flying sorties as night fell.
A third
major fire broke out Friday afternoon north of the capital in Malakasa,
where more than 120 children were being evacuated from summer camps,
mayor Thomas Rousis told state television.
Firefighters were also
tackling at least three other blazes, one near Athens, another in the
southern area of Argolida in the Peloponnese, and a third on the island
of Evia, northwest of the capital.
Forest and brush fires are
common during Greece’s hot, dry summers. In 2007, massive forest fires
ravaged southern Greece, devastating dozens of villages and killing
about 60 people.

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