ATHENS, Greece – Greek firefighters battled large brush and forest fires on the outskirts of Athens and in the country’s southern Peloponnese region Friday, where flames forced the evacuation of at least three villages and two summer camps.
Strong winds fanned the forest fire in the Lakonia area, on the tip of the Peloponnese. A coast guard vessel and other boats were attempting to evacuate scores of people trapped on a beach by the fire, but those rescue efforts were being hampered by rough seas.
Local media reported two summer camps and a health centre in the seaside town of Neapoli had been evacuated.
One of the seven firefighting planes battling the Lakonia fire had to make an emergency landing, and its two pilots were being transferred to a local hospital for first aid. They were not seriously hurt. Two helicopters, 120 firefighters and nearly 30 soldiers were fighting the blaze.
In Athens, a large brush fire burned across Ymittos hill on the capital’s outskirts. Strong winds were helping the flames devour parts of the verdant hillside popular with day-trippers. More than 70 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with local volunteers.
Firefighters were also battling a smaller blaze in Koropi, near Athens, and another on the island of Evia, east of the capital.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greece has requested help from his country’s army and air force, as well as the European emergency response centre. Two water-dropping planes had taken off from the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki in the north to assist with the Athens blaze, he said.
“All forces are on alert,” Tsipras said, noting that the hot, dry and windy conditions made firefighting more difficult.