Greece battles fierce wildfires amid heatwave

A firefighter and a local trying to extinguish a wildfire in the village of Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on July 23, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS
Smoke billowing as a wildfire approaches the coastal resort of Vatera on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on July 23, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
A firefighting aircraft dumping water on a wildfire near Vatera, on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on July 23, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - Greece on Sunday (July 24) battled three ferocious wildfires across the country which forced hundreds to evacuate, as higher temperatures raised concern over more blazes.

The country is in the grip of a heatwave that began on Saturday and is expected to last 10 days. Temperatures were set to rise to 42 deg C in some regions.

Experts blame climate change for the soaring temperatures - and warned that worse is yet to come.

Fires raged in the north, east and south of Greece including on the island of Lesbos.

The blaze raged on Sunday on Lesbos after it broke out a day earlier, causing the evacuation of hundreds of tourists and residents from the beachside village of Vatera.

At least four houses were destroyed, state TV ERT reported, and fires damaged an unknown number of shops, hotels and beach bars in the village.

Dozens of firefighters on Sunday morning clamoured to control the blaze, with four water-dropping planes and two helicopters in operation.

A wildfire was ablaze for a fourth day in Dadia National Park, known for its black vulture colony, in the northeastern region of Evros.

The fire has already destroyed nearly 500 hectares of woodland.

More than 300 firefighters struggled to control the fire in Evros and late Saturday, as the thick smoke forced the evacuation of the village of Dadias.

It was not known how many people were evacuated.

"The most important thing for us is the safety of the villagers and all forces will be deployed there," Evros governor Dimitris Petrovits told Athens News Agency.

The fire had already passed the raptor birds observatory and was closing in on the buildings of the protected area management unit.

Mr Petrovits said collecting and treating injured animals was a high priority for authorities.

In the Peloponnese, a southern peninsula, a fire that broke out Saturday morning forced the evacuation of Chrysokelaria village.

A wildfire in mountains near Athens on Wednesday also damaged homes and forced hundreds of people to evacuate after gale-force winds earlier this week.

Firefighters inspecting a house that was burned by a wildfire, in the suburb of Pikermi in Athens on July 20, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Greece's worst wildfire disaster killed 102 lives in 2018 in the coastal suburb of Mati, east of Athens.

The latest fires come after a heatwave and wildfires last year destroyed 103,000 hectares and claimed three lives in Greece.

Fires in parts of France, Spain and Portugal have already burned more land so far this year than was destroyed by flames in all of 2021.

The area, some 517,881 hectares, is equivalent to the size of Trinidad and Tobago.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.