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Greece: Unprecedented heatwave has led to multiple fires, evacuations

A total of 81 fires broke out in Greece in the last 24 hours, and there are currently 40 active fire fronts, Deputy Civil Protection Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said in a briefing on the fires late on Tuesday.

The largest and most dangerous fire in the northern suburb of Varybobi, in the Acharnes region, currently has three fronts: the city itself, Adames, and Thrakomakedones, where 520 firefighters, 17 terrain teams, 150 fire trucks (and, until sunset, 9 helicopters and 7 aircraft) operate, he said.

This fire began at 13.25 in Ano Varybobi, on Mt. Parnitha, when the prevailing heatwave conditions created temperatures of 45C, humidity of under 10%, and midday winds with a velocity of 6 on the Beaufort scale.

The Fire Brigade was assisted by the army, the police – including 305 policemen and 3 riot police teams -, volunteers and local authorities, and a total of 315 people were transported away from the fire. Evacuees of Varybobi who have lost homes may call the National Public Health Organization (EODY) at 1135 to be put up at hotels, Hardalias said, at state expense and in arrangement with the hotel association.

Active fronts

Of the 40 active fronts in Greece today, four so far have led to evacuations of communities. These were fires at Kastania is SE Peloponnese (broke out at 13.23), Asklipion on the island of Kos (14.50), Vassilitsa in SW Peloponnese (15.40), and Myrtia on the island of Evia (19.11).

Of the above four, the one on Kos was contained (according to news that came in after the briefing), while the one in NW Evia is burning between Chronia and the coastal Limni Evias.

Hardalias also said that despite the threat of the fire in Varybobi to power stations, the danger was averted. In addition, Culture Minister Lina Mendoni had provided advice on removing the most valuable objects from the former royal home of Tatoi, north of the fire front on the same mountain, which is a national park.

Both Hardalias and Civil Protection Minister Michalis Chryssochoidis, who spoke earlier on the efforts of firefighters, underlined that despite the unprecedented heatwave in Greece, the state was prepared and acted in a systematic way to evacuate endangered villages. Hardalias also called on the public to be particularly vigilant with any activities that might lead to a fire.