Europe

Greece forest fires threaten homes in Athens and in south

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Media captionFootage showed flames and smoke billowing into the skies above northern Athens

Firefighters in Greece are battling outbreaks of wildfires on the outskirts of Athens and the southern Peloponnese peninsula which have forced villagers to flee.

The blaze outside the capital spread quickly on a hillside and blanketed parts of the city in thick smoke.

Separately, villages were evacuated in the Peloponnese as wildfires burned through rural land.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has asked citizens not to panic.

"Everybody needs to stay calm," he said.

"We will require volunteers contributing wherever is allowed by the fire brigade, who are in charge of the operations.

"We need to keep calm and we need a collective effort in order to deal with the different fires."

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Homes were damaged in the southern town of Neapoli
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Neapoli is one of several towns that has been evacuated

'Critical'

The fires have already damaged several houses. Around 200 people had to be rescued from a beach after becoming trapped by the fires.

The government has requested assistance from other European countries. France says it is sending two firefighting aircraft following the call for help.

Authorities say that over 50 fires separate fires had broken out on four main fronts in a region stretching from the island of Evia, north-east of Athens, to the southern Peloponnese.

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Image caption Municipality workers try to extinguish flames burning on Mount Hymettus in Athens on Friday
Image copyright AFP
Image caption These Athens residents left their homes

Fire initially broke out near the north-eastern Athens district of Kareas but within hours had crossed Mount Hymettus and was threatening the districts of Ilioupoli and Glyfada close to the Athens coast, reports said.

Crews fought to keep the flames away from nearby residential areas.

Dozens of people, including elderly women covering their faces with headscarves, tried to put out the flames with buckets of water, Reuters said.

Near the town of Monemvassia, in the Peloponnese, flames forced one fire-fighting aircraft to make an emergency landing.

"Things are very bad," Peloponnese Governor Petros Tatoulis reportedly told state television. "The situation is critical. We are working to prevent casualties."

Although forest fires are not unusual in Greece, local media say these are bigger than in recent years.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Hundreds of firefighters are tackling the blazes
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption France is sending two water dousing aircraft
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Wildfires raged above Neapoli on Friday

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