GREECE: In uncontrolled wildfires across Greece, two people have been killed and six areas put on high alert. Wildfires in Greece raged into the night burning forest and homes in the northern outskirts of Athens and other parts of the country, with pressure for more evacuations and international aid.
On Friday, authorities struggled with 154 wildfires across the country with huge clouds of smoke still billowing over the big fronts – north of Athens, the island of Evia and areas in the Peloponnese including Mani, Messinia and ancient Olympia, the site of the first Olympic Games.
“We are facing another, more difficult night,” government minister Nikos Hardalias told reporters. “Wildfires of unprecedented intensity and spread, all our forces are fighting the battle day and night to save lives, together with volunteers.”
A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed by a falling electricity pole in a suburb of the capital. The firefighter was among the first two people killed by the fires.
Konstantinos Michalos, president of the Athens Chamber of Commerce was the other victim. He was found unconscious in a factory close to where a fire was raging.
A further 20 people have been injured.
In the northern part of the island of Evia near Athens, the coast guard evacuated 650 people by ferries and fishing boats as for the fourth day, wildfires burned through forestland all the way to the shore.
Police went door to door on Friday urging people to leave their homes north of Athens. Authorities also ordered thousands of people to leave their homes outside Athens as the blaze advanced, burning more homes, cars and businesses.
Greece’s prime minister said a heat wave has turned the country into a power keg.
“We are witnessing a catastrophe of historic proportions and climate change is the basic cause,” said Alexis Tsipras, leader of Greece’s main political opposition. “We must support our frontline fighters and all who lost the efforts of a lifetime in a few minutes.”
Greece, like many other parts of Europe, has witnessed harsh impacts of extreme weather this summer. A week-long heatwave with temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) – its worst in 30 years – has sparked simultaneous wildfires in many parts of the country, tearing through forests and homes and killing animals.