Major wildfire in Greece abates, several homes damaged

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek authorities ordered thousands of homes near Athens evacuated Wednesday as a large wildfire raged out of control among scattered country residences, damaging buildings while strong winds that whipped up the flames hampered efforts to contain the blaze.

No injuries were reported from the fire southeast of the capital near Keratea, which had abated by late Wednesday with no major active front and only scattered small blazes, the fire service said. It was the worst of the 71 forest fires that broke out in various parts of Greece since late Tuesday.

The nearby towns of Anavyssos and Palia Fokea were ordered evacuated as a precaution as flames headed in their direction, together with some smaller settlements in the area. Authorities provided detailed escape routes by road and many evacuees were temporarily housed in local hotels.

Fire service and local authorities said it was unclear how many buildings had been damaged in the Keratea blaze, although there had been several reports of limited damage. Thick smoke in the area reduced visibility, but there were few immediate reports of severe damage.

The fire service said about 180 firefighters took part in the effort to contain the wildfire that raged through forest, olive groves, scrub and vineyards, assisted by eight water-dropping helicopters and five planes, as well as local volunteers.

All the firefighters were to remain in the area overnight to deal with potential flare-ups.

Early Thursday, a new forest fire broke out near the village of Aghios Konstandinos, a few kilometers farther south of Keratea. About 60 firefighters were sent to the spot. Officials said the blaze was not immediately threatening inhabited areas.

Other wildfires broke out Wednesday on the islands of Andros and Thassos, and in two locations in the southern Peloponnese region where authorities ordered the evacuation of a village. Firefighters contained a blaze at the seaside resort of Nea Makri east of Athens and on the island of Crete.

Wildfires are common during Greece's hot, arid summers. In 2018, a major blaze that swept through the seaside Mati resort, near Nea Makri, caused 102 deaths.

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