Greece evacuates Athens suburb under wildfire threat

AFP , Saturday 4 Jun 2022

A wildfire whipped by gale-force winds blazed through vegetation in a southern suburb of Athens on Saturday, the fire brigade said, forcing residents to evacuate.

wildfire in Athens, Greece
Firemen try to keep the fire away from a residential area in Panorama Voulas, south of Athens on June 4, 2022. AFP


The Greek Civil Protection issued an emergency appeal via SMS for people to leave Ano Voula as the flames reached within metres (yards) of homes.

Officials reported no casualties.

The fire also led to the evacuation of four more neighbourhoods later on Saturday as the wind changed direction and forced the blaze towards the town of Vari, Grigoris Konstantelos, the mayor of Voula, told Skai TV.

Six water-bombing aircraft, three helicopters and municipal water tankers supported dozens of firefighters with 20 fire engines.

Police told people to leave their homes in images broadcast by Ant1 TV.

The media reported a power cut in the area where some roofs, gardens and vehicles had been damaged by the blaze.

Skai TV showed footage of a burning house with flames licking inside.

Kostantelos told Open TV around 20 houses were damaged.

"The situation is very difficult and the wind does not help," said Giannis Konstantatos, mayor of Ellinikon-Argiroupoli, a neighbouring municipality, who also heads a conservation group for nearby Mount Imittos.

"The atmosphere is suffocating, we have difficulty breathing," he told Athens News Agency.

Giorgos Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, where the fire first broke out, said it began at a high voltage electricity power station, according to the agency.

Later in the afternoon, a second fire broke out near Athens, in the village of Kouvaras but no residential areas were at risk.

Last summer, Greece's most severe heatwave in decades, which authorities blamed on climate change, saw fires destroy more than 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland, the country's worst wildfire damage since 2007.

More than 200 firefighters and technical equipment provided by European Union countries will be soon deployed to Greece to help boost the battle against large wildfires.

Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and Norway will take part in the deployment, coordinated by the EU's Civil Protection Mechanism.

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