Flames swept through a town near Athens overnight as wildfires burned across Greece for a fifth day on Saturday, and hundreds of people were evacuated by ferry from the island of Evia east of the capital.
The fire on Mount Parnitha on the outskirts of Athens has forced the evacuation of thousands of people since late Thursday, with emergency crews facing winds and high temperatures as they battle to contain it.
Strong winds pushed the fire into the town of Thrakomakedones overnight, where it burned homes. Residents had been ordered to evacuate and there were no immediate reports of casualties.
“[It’s] really bad,” said Thanasis Kaloudis, a resident of the town. “All of Greece has burned.”
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, speaking after visiting the main fire control centre in Athens, called it a “nightmarish summer,” adding the government’s priority “has been, first and foremost, to protect human lives”.
Wildfires have erupted in many parts of the country amid Greece’s worst heatwave in more than 30 years, tearing through swathes of forestland, destroying homes and businesses and killing animals. Temperatures have been over 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) all week.
Earlier this week, the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS) warned that the Mediterranean has become a wildfire hotspot with a heatwave producing a high risk of further fires and smoke pollution around the region.
Turkey is battling what President Tayyip Erdogan says have been the worst wildfires in its history. Six fires were still burning in Turkey on Saturday and at least two villages in the southwestern province of Mugla were evacuated.
Eight people have died in the fires have ravaged Turkey’s Aegean and Mediterranean coastal regions for 11 days, burning tens of thousands of hectares and forcing thousands of residents and tourists to leave homes and hotels.
Escape by ferry
In Greece, more than 700 firefighters, including reinforcements from Cyprus, France and Israel, have been deployed to fight the blaze north of Athens, assisted by the army and water-bombing aircraft.
Fires on Evia, Greece’s second biggest island, are scattered from one end on the Gulf of Euboea across to the other, facing the Aegean Sea.
Hundreds of people, including many elderly residents, were evacuated by ferry late on Friday from the town of Limni on Evia as flames reached the shore and the sky turned an apocalyptic red.
Authorities have battled more than 400 wildfires across Greece in the last 24 hours, with the biggest fronts still burning in the north of Athens, Evia and areas in the Peloponnese including Mani, Messinia and ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games.
One man died on Friday after being injured by electricity pylon and at least nine others have been injured, authorities said.
The government planned to reimburse people affected by the fires and would designate the burned land as areas for reforestation, Mitsotakis said.
Residents in suburbs north of Athens have been forced to leave in a hurry with the few belongings they can take.
“Our business, our home, all of our property is there. I hope they don’t burn,” Yorgos Papaioannou, 26, said on Friday, sitting in a parking lot with his girlfriend as ash fell around them from the smoke-filled sky.