Wildfires continued to burn in Greece over the weekend as the country experienced a weeklong heatwave, its worst in three decades, with searing temperatures and hot winds creating tinderbox conditions.
Thousands of people were reported to have fled their homes on the Greek island of Evia as wildfires burned uncontrolled for a sixth day on Sunday (8 August), and ferries were on standby for more evacuations after taking many to safety by sea.
However, there was some respite as fires that had threatened northern suburbs of Athens in recent days died back somewhat.
A fire on the foothills of Mount Parnitha north of Athens has been contained but weather conditions meant there was still a high threat it could flare again.
However, the blaze on Evia, a large island east of the capital, quickly burgeoned into several fronts, ripping through thousands of hectares (acres) of pristine forest across its northern part, and forcing the evacuation of dozens of villages.
More than 570 firefighters are battling the blaze in Evia, authorities said.
Across the country, forest land has burned and dozens of homes and businesses have been destroyed.
Greece has deployed the army to help battle the fires and several countries including France, Egypt, Switzerland and Spain have also sent help including firefighting aircraft.
The coastguard has evacuated more than 2,000 people, including many elderly residents, from different parts of the island since Tuesday.
The governor for central Greece, Fanis Spanos, said the situation in the north of the island had been “very difficult” for nearly a week.
“The fronts are huge, the area of burned land is huge,” he told Skai TV. More than 2,500 people have been accommodated in hotels and other shelters, he said.
Authorities have warned that the risk of further fires remains high in many regions including Athens and Crete.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the government’s priority has been “first and foremost , to protect human lives”.
In the last 10 days, more than 56,000 hectares (140,000 acres) have been burnt in Greece, according to the European Forest Fire Information System.
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