Sun | Jan 20, 2019

Hundreds flee as forest fires rage on either side of Athens

Published:Tuesday | July 24, 2018 | 12:00 AM
A firefighter sprays water on the fire in the town of Mati, east of Athens, yesterday.



Two major forest fires raged out of control yesterday on either side of the Greek capital, burning houses, prompting residents to flee and turning the sky over Athens a hazy orange from the smoke.

Regional authorities declared a state of emergency in the western and eastern parts of Attica, the greater Athens area, as coast guard boats headed out to rescue people trapped on beaches by the flames.

Several other fires broke out across the country, including in northeastern Greece and the southern island of Crete, stretching Greece's firefighting capabilities. Gale force winds that frequently changed direction were hampering firefighting efforts.

Fire Service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had called on the European Union for assistance with aerial and ground support in helping battle the flames.

Health ministry and police authorities said at least nine people were hospitalised from injuries in the fires, with three reported in serious condition in intensive care.

Three major hospitals in the city were on standby in case of more fire victims.

"We are doing everything humanly possible to tray and tackle these fires," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said, speaking from Bosnia where he was on a visit. "What concerns us is that there are fires occurring simultaneously."