Greece battles wildfire on Evia island, smoke blankets Athens

Smoke rises inside a burned house during a wildfire on Mount Hymettus, near Athens, Greece, August 12, 2019. REUTERS/Costas Baltas

ATHENS (Reuters) – A large wildfire fanned by strong winds destroyed tracts of forest on the Greek island of Evia, firefighters said on Tuesday, as authorities prepared to evacuate two villages potentially in the path of the flames.

Wildfires raged uncontrolled in at least four other Greek regions, and the fire brigade said it had been called to put out 182 fires in the last three days.

More than 120 firemen, aided by helicopters and other aircraft, battled the blaze on Evia, the country’s second-largest island, where a monastery had already been evacuated. It generated thick smoke that blanketed the capital Athens some 110 kilometers (70 miles) away.

No fatalities had been reported, and the winds were expected to subside in the evening, a fire brigade official said.

Greece often faces wildfires during its dry summer months, and authorities have warned of the high risk of blazes this week.

Last year a wildfire killed 100 people in the seaside town of Mati near Athens, and in 2007 devastating fires killed 65, scorched thousands of hectares of forest and farmland and threatened archaeological sites.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou; editing by John Stonestreet

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