Fires threaten Athens’ hillside suburbs for second day

Fires threaten Athens’ hillside suburbs for second day

Nearly 500 firefighters struggled to contain a large wildfire that threatened hillside suburbs outside Athens for a second day Wednesday, after hundreds of residents were evacuated overnight.

At least two people were hospitalized with breathing problems and minor burns, while local officials said several houses had been burned in the fire around Mount Penteli, 25 kilometers (16 miles) northeast of the Greek capital.

“The conditions are very challenging. The priority was to safeguard human life, critical infrastructure and private property,” Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said.

He said winds of up to 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph) were making air support difficult for fire crews.

Greece has avoided the heat wave that is currently afflicting countries in Western Europe, but fire officials say that hot and dry conditions that have lasted for weeks, as well as longer-term temperature rises, have increased the overall risk of forest fires.

Five water-dropping aircraft and four helicopters were operating Wednesday at the fire north of Athens, officials said, adding that more than 600 people have evacuated from their homes so far.

More than 1,300 square kilometers (500 square miles) of land was damaged by wildfires in Greece last year, the worst damage recorded since 2007. [AP]

Fire burns next to houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens on Wednesday. [AP] 

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