Wildfire rages on Greek island of Evia, blanketing villages with smoke

Evarado Alatorre
Agosto 14, 2019

"Conditions are exceptionally hard and the state's first priority is to protect lives", Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters outside the fire department's centre of operations, after cutting short a vacation on his home island of Crete.

Dozens of firefighters Tuesday battled a major wildfire that forced the evacuation of a monastery and villagers on the Greek island of Evia as smoke from the blaze reached as far as Athens, authorities said.

More than 227 firemen, aided by five helicopters and six other aircraft, were battling the blaze on Evia, Greece's second-largest island, where a monastery had already been evacuated.

The PM acknowledged that the country's fire crews had had a gruelling five-day stretch, with the fire department noting that 56 fires had broken out over the past 24 hours alone. The smoke from the fire can also be seen in Athens. At least two houses were burned but there were no reports of injuries.

Mitsotakis added that four Canadair fire-fighting planes from Croatia and Italy would be deployed today after Greece requested European Union assistance.

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"We are fighting against time to contain the fire".

The fire department sent reinforcements to the area, bringing the total number of firefighters to 189. A third wildfire was burning through brush and dried weeds near Thebes, northwest of Athens.

Greece is often faced with wildfires in the dry summer months, just past year a wildfire killed 100 people in Mati, Athens. The fire trapped people in their cars as they attempted to flee, while many other victims drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches overcome by heat and choking smoke. Authorities have repeatedly warned the public not to engage in outdoor activities that could cause fires, such as welding work, burning dried weeds or lighting campfires and barbecues.

Yorgos Karahalis and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Evia, Greece, contributed.

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