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State of emergency declared on fire-stricken area near Athens as heatwave fuels more wildfires

Xinhua | Updated: 2021-08-05 10:07
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A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire at the village of Rovies, on Evia island, Greece, Aug 4, 2021. [Photo/IC]

ATHENS - A total of 114 fires broke out in the last 24 hours in Greece, as local authorities declared the fire-stricken area of Varybobi and the wider municipality of Acharnes in the north of Athens in a state of emergency.

"We give a titanic battle in multiple fire fronts," Greek Deputy Minister for Civil Protection and Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias told a press briefing Wednesday evening, as wildfires raged across the country.

The biggest of these blazes were on the island of Evia, in ancient Olympia, though wildfires have also ripped through Messinia in the Peloponnese, and in Chalkidiki on the northern side of Greece.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from more than 10 villages on the island of Evia, as wildfire was spreading on four major fronts in the north part of the island, burning houses and forest land since Tuesday evening.

Coast guard vessels along with private boats assisted to transfer 90 residents and tourists of the coastal town of Rovies, in Evia, who were sent to the beach for safety in the port of Edipsos, Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

Similar scenes were unfolding at the same time in the municipality of ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics in northwestern Peloponnese.

"Seven fires broke out in Ilia prefecture on Wednesday, four of which (are) in the broader area of the town and ancient site of Ancient Olympia," Hardalias said.

Firefighters backed by aircraft dropped water to stop wildfire from burning the 2,800-year-old ruins, one of the most revered sites of antiquity, as alert 112 messages were issued to residents to evacuate eight villages.

Forest fires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers, but nothing has approached the scale of the last four days.

According to the National Observatory of Athens, fires that broke out since the beginning of August have burned more than 50 percent of the land surface usually destroyed in an entire fire season in Greece.

In particular, fires in Attica, on the island of Rhodes and Evia, and in Eastern Mani in August destroyed nearly 6,000 hectares. In the entire fire season of 2020, fires burnt 10,376 hectares of land, and that number was 9,405 hectares in 2019.

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