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Major wildfire near resort of Loutraki blankets Athens with smoke on Thur.

A major wildfire was burning a wide stretch of pine former west of Athens proper throughout Thursday, after erupting the previous evening outside the resort town of Loutraki, on the Gulf of Corinth.

The area is sparsely populated and semi-mountainous to mountainous, although a handful of settlements and two monasteries were evacuated. Heavy winds made efforts by fire-fighting crews and fire-fighting craft difficult.

Thick smoke from the blaze blanketed the sky over the greater Athens area, more than 80 kilometer away, on Thursday afternoon.