Burned cars after a wildfire in Varibobi area, northern Athens, Greece, on Wednesday. AP
Thousands of people have fled their homes north of Athens as firefighting planes resumed operation at first light in Greece on Wednesday to tackle a major forest fire on the northern outskirts.
Earlier, a forest wildfire reached residential areas. The hurried evacuations took place just as Greece grappled with its worst heatwave in decades forcing thousands to flee their homes.
One of the country's most intense heatwaves in decades more than 500 firefighters struggled through the night to contain a large forest blaze on the outskirts of Athens, which raced into residential areas on Tuesday, forcing thousands to flee. It was the worst of 81 wildfires that broke out in Greece over the past 24 hours.
“It is a large fire and it will take a lot of work to get this under control,” the greater Athens regional governor, George Patoulis, told state-run ERT television. “The foliage is very dense in these areas and it is very dried out due to the heatwave, so the conditions are difficult.”
A firefighter removes a wood pallet as a wildfire burns at Varympompi suburb north of Athens, Greece. Reuters
The fire in the Varibobi and Tatoi suburbs of the Greek capital was the worst of 81 wildfires that broke out around the country in 24 hours from late Monday to late Tuesday.
Five water-dropping planes and nine helicopters were helping more than 500 firefighters, soldiers and numerous volunteer groups on the ground, the fire department said.
"It was another exceptionally difficult night,” Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said while visiting a fire department mobile coordination center in the area on Wednesday morning. He said fire fighters had succeeded in reducing four active fire fronts to one overnight.
"There is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
A burned car is seen after a wildfire in Varibobi area, northern Athens, Greece, on Wednesday. AP
The fire department said 95 firefighters, two aircraft, four ground teams and 35 vehicles were battling the flames in Evia, while 74 firefighters, three ground teams, 22 vehicles and one helicopter were tackling the fire in the Messinia area of the Peloponnese.
The fire was fueled by tinder-dry conditions caused by a protracted heat wave that began last week and sent temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius (113 F).
There were no reports of deaths or serious injuries. The fire burned homes, businesses and vehicles, and sent a large cloud of smoke over Athens on Tuesday night. The government announced it would provide hotel rooms for local residents for as long as they are unable to return to their homes.
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