Battered by heavy winds, firefighters in Greece struggled to contain new fires Wednesday around the capital of Athens and on the island of Salamina.
Two new fires broke out in Megara, west of Athens, following a round-the-clock effort to halt a blaze on Mount Penteli, on the outskirts of the city, that had swept through inhabited areas and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents.
There were 95 firefighters with 34 vehicles, seven water-bombers and six helicopters in the area.
A seperate blaze started in a forested area of Salamina and quickly split into three fronts, with authorities ordering the evacuation of the local health clinic and telling residents near the ancient Euripides Theater to evacuate towards Karaiskaki beach.
“Given the conditions created by climate change, we have new fires expanding,” Greece’s Civil Protection and Climate Change Minister Christos Stylianides said. “The conditions we are operating under are extremely adverse. Wind gusts have exceeded 110 kilometers per hour (68 mph) in some areas.”
Greece has avoided the heat wave that hit countries in western Europe, including the UK, this week, but fire officials say this summer’s hot and dry conditions, which have lasted for weeks, as well as longer-term temperature increases have increased the overall risk of forest fires.
At least two people were hospitalized in the Greek capital with breathing problems and minor burns. Helicopters scooped up water pumped into outdoor tanks near homes on hillside suburbs before flying back into thick smoke to make the water drops.