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Wildfires Force Residents to Flee Greek Seaside Villages

As firefighters in Greece scramble to put out multiple fires that have broken out amid the hot, dry conditions, dramatic television footage has shown desperate residents using water hoses to try to douse parched land in seaside resorts south of Athens as thick gray smoke billowed above.

Thousands of people fled their homes in villages south, west and north of Athens, the Greek capital, on Monday, and the authorities evacuated scores more from three children’s camps and a retirement home. Disturbing footage also showed horses being led away from burning stables as other animals shrieked in fear or pain.

On Tuesday, state television showed footage of burned homes and charred cars in seaside villages southeast of Athens, where an estimated 7,400 acres of forestland has burned.

Water-dropping aircraft had resumed their flights at first light after a night in which firefighters managed to partly contain three of the four big fires that had broken out south and west of Athens the day before. A total of 20 aircraft were aiding efforts by 250 firefighters to douse a large blaze in Dervenohoria, about 30 miles north of Athens, Yiannis Artopios, a spokesman for Greece’s fire service, told a televised briefing.

Evacuation orders were issued for several other villages in the area, he said, describing the blaze in Dervenohoria as the most “dynamic” and worrying.

Greece’s military was aiding the efforts by firefighters and other rescue services, and the European Union was helping, too. It has sent four firefighting aircraft, the bloc’s commissioner for crisis management, Janez Lenarcic, said on Twitter.

Mr. Artopios appealed to people in the country to avoid any activities that could spark more fires, warning that the combination of dry conditions, strong winds and rising temperatures meant that the coming days would be “very difficult.”

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Monday urged people to leave the affected areas, saying that the priority was to save lives and that losses would be compensated.

“We’ve had fires, we have them now and we’ll have them in the future, and this is one of the consequences of the climate crisis that we are living with ever greater intensity,” he said in a message from Brussels, where he was meeting with other European leaders.

Mr. Mitsotakis was set to return to Athens on Tuesday to oversee efforts to curb the fires, cutting short his trip to Brussels.

Although Greece’s first major heat wave of the year has eased somewhat in recent days, the sweltering conditions are forecast to worsen starting on Thursday, and temperatures are expected to reach 43 Celsius (109.4 Fahrenheit) in Athens on Sunday.

To help mitigate against the intense heat, the authorities are operating air-conditioned venues where people can cool down in central Athens. Access to the Acropolis, the capital’s main landmark, was restricted to the cooler morning and afternoon hours last weekend, and similar measures are expected to be introduced later this week.

People whose homes have been damaged in the fires will be hosted in local hotels, the authorities said. And scores of animals that were rescued from shelters and stables close to the fires were being cared for at centers in Athens.



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Mohammad SHiblu

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