Smoke billows over Athens on July 17, 2015 as firefighters battled a brush fire in northeast of the …
Earlier in the day, four villages were evacuated in the Peloponnese peninsula, near the town of Monemvassia, where strong winds fanned a raging wildfire, local officials told state agency ANA. Attempts by a coastguard vessel and other boats to rescue scores of people trapped on a beach were hampered by rough seas. The brush fire broke out on the outskirts of the Greek capital, burning across a hillside and blanketing parts of Athens in thick smoke.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to turn his attention to fire-fighting operations as several large blazes across the country threatened homes at a time he was expected to prepare a cabinet reshuffle.
Local media reported that two summer camps and a healthcare centre in the seaside town of Neapoli had been evacuated.
Firefighters were also battling a smaller blaze in Koropi, near Athens, and another on the island of Evia, east of the capital.
In total, two helicopters, 120 firefighters, and some 30 soldiers are fighting fires in the area.
Two pilots were injured when their firefighting plane had to make an emergency landing. Two water-dropping planes had taken off from the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki in the north to assist with the Athens blaze, he said.
“All firefighting forces, in addition to the army and the airforce, are on alert”, Tsipras told reporters, blaming the outbreak on “emergency weather conditions”. In 2007, flames engulfed large tracts of forested areas in southern Greece, damaging dozens of villages and killing some 60 people.