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    NewsEuropeGreece: new "difficult day" for firefighters, fires complicated to control

    Greece: new “difficult day” for firefighters, fires complicated to control

    On Monday, several fires broke out in areas surrounding Athens, which were plagued by a heat wave. The fires led to the evacuation of thousands of residents and tourists.

    Greek firefighters are experiencing a second “difficult day” on Tuesday in the fight against several forest fires near Athens despite an improvement in threatened seaside areas near the Greek capital.

    It’s “a difficult day. The firefighters are struggling with several fires and are fighting in many areas of the territory,” firefighter spokesman Yannis Artopios said in the middle of the day.

    Firefighters face an explosive cocktail: high heat, wind and vegetation devastated by drought. “Fire can catch quickly and anywhere”, explains on BFMTV Eric Brocardi, spokesperson for the National Federation of French Firefighters.

    “The situation is difficult to control with flames several meters high which nibble tens of hectares of pine forest in a few minutes”, agrees in this sense the special correspondent of BFMTV on the spot.

    Towards a new night of struggle

    The most violent fire is currently in the forest of Dervenohoria, 50 km north of Athens, where 250 firefighters, eleven planes and nine helicopters are deployed. Four localities in the region received an evacuation order in an alert message sent to all mobile phones.

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    “The winds are not as strong as yesterday” but “the night will still be difficult”, estimated Vassilis Pergalias, the mayor of Tanagra, a town near Dervenohoria, on the public television channel ERT.

    Fires ravage fields near the village of Pournari, about 25 km southwest of Athens, Greece, on July 18, 2023.
    Fires ravage fields near the village of Pournari, about 25 km southwest of Athens, Greece, on July 18, 2023. © Spyros BAKALIS / AFP

    “The inhabited localities are not threatened in Dervernohoria but the atmosphere is suffocating because of the cloud of smoke which has invaded the region”, he added, while firefighters fought all night against the flames in this region.

    “The situation has improved compared to the night but we still have to work to contain the fire”, warned the city councilor.

    An improving situation

    On the other hand, in the seaside area of ​​​​Kouvaras, 40 kilometers from the capital, where a fire broke out on Monday afternoon before winds of 50 km / h carried it to neighboring localities, the situation “s ‘is improved,’ noted ERT.

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    This Tuesday, 230 firefighters and five helicopters continued to operate in this area and traffic remained interrupted on the roads in the affected municipalities.

    Thick black smoke near the village of Pournari, some 25 km southwest of Athens, Greece, on July 18, 2023.
    Thick black smoke near the village of Pournari, some 25 km southwest of Athens, Greece, on July 18, 2023. © Spyros BAKALIS / AFP

    Fanned by shifting winds, the blaze quickly spread to the coastal towns of Anavyssos, Lagonisi and Saronida, forcing residents to flee their homes on Monday evening.

    A mayor told Greek television that more than 7,000 hectares of land had been burned to the ground along a coast where many Athenians have second homes. Several houses have also burned, according to images broadcast on television.

    Damage to be deplored

    To the west of Athens, near the Isthmus of Corinth, a third front is still active in the seaside resort of Loutraki (80 km from the capital) where 120 firefighters, five planes and a helicopter are operating.

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    A thick layer of white smoke was visible from the capital earlier in the day. The day before, 1,200 children were evacuated from holiday camps threatened by fire.

    A Greek policeman evacuates a child from a forest fire in the village of Agios Charamlabos, near Athens, Greece, July 18, 2023.
    A Greek policeman evacuates a child from a forest fire in the village of Agios Charamlabos, near Athens, Greece, on July 18, 2023. © Aris MESSINIS / AFP

    “All the civil protection forces fought the fires throughout the night (…), the first priority being the protection of human life” but also “the protection of public infrastructure of vital importance and the real estate of citizens,” firefighter spokesman Yannis Artopios said Tuesday morning during a press briefing.

    “Damage has been reported to houses in Saronida and Loutraki and an inventory will be carried out after the fire is contained,” he said.

    Sending European reinforcements

    Significant resources are mobilized to fight the flames. This Tuesday, Gerald Darmanin also announced the dispatch of two Canadair, a reconnaissance aircraft and 18 Civil Security personnel as reinforcements. “Italy is also sending two planes”, still within the framework of the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

    Like part of Europe, Greece has been hit since last Friday by a strong heat wave, a peak of 44.2°C in the center of the country having been recorded.

    Salome Robles with agencies

    Source: BFM TV

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