Two separate fires – which destroyed thousands of hectares of farming land and caused serious injuries to six people – were still burning yesterday in Peloponnese, while another wildfire in Mount Athos, northern Greece, was out of control threatening the town of Ouranoupolis.
Authorities in the Peloponnese announced yesterday that the blaze, which started in the area of Megalopoli in Arcadia and had been burning for more than four days, was finally being brought under control. The fire destroyed 10,000 hectares of forest land and olive trees. The Civil Protection Authority declared the area to be in a state of emergency as hundreds of hectares of land were destroyed by the flames.
A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing the fire by discarding a cigarette among dried scrubs.
Greece has been experiencing one of its hottest summers on record, leading to dry conditions which fuel forest fires.
Officials in southern Greece say six people have been hospitalised – two local residents with burns and four firefighters with breathing problems – as a wildfire swept through forest land outside the city of Megalopolis in the Peloponnese.
The fire and state health officials said three villages were evacuated in the area, 230 kilometers (145 miles) southwest of Athens, whilst one home and several farm buildings were damaged.
Six planes and a helicopter were helping scores of firefighters battle the blaze, which was 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) wide.
Meanwhile, another fire that broke out on Wednesday in a pine forest in Corinth in the north-east Peloponnese was brought under control yesterday.
Firefighters were still trying yesterday morning (AEST) to control a blaze that broke out on Mount Athos in northern Greece – the location of a semi-autonomous monastic community and World Heritage site – which threatened the resort of Ouranoupoli.
The fire broke out on Wednesday afternoon in the Monoxylitis area of the mountain, in the vicinity of the Serbian Orthodox Hilandar Monastery, which is the northernmost of the community and was damaged by fire in 2004. By Thursday morning, the fire had begun to approach Ouranoupoli, a popular destination for tourists visiting Halkidiki. The cause of the fire is still undetermined.
“At these difficult times, panicking is the worst thing you can do,” said Macedonia-Thrace Minister Theodoros Karaoglou. “We have to be calm, collected and coordinated, and citizens have to listen to authorities’ instructions.”
More than 100 firefighters, 40 fire engines, three water dropping airplanes and three helicopters were deployed in the effort to put out the blaze. Karaoglou described the work carried out by the fire service as “heroic”.
Their work was made difficult by the tinderbox conditions caused by the latest summer heat wave and less rainfall than usual this year. The wind also picked up yesterday and frequent changes in its direction created extra problems for firefighters who attempted to tackle the front, which spread over 25 kilometers.
Dozens of people were evacuated from holiday homes and hotels as the fire approached Ouranoupoli and thick smoke became dangerous for children and those with health problems.
“Ouranoupoli is not under threat at the moment,” deputy mayor of the local municipality of Aristoteli, Constantinos Katsavavakis, told kathimerini.gr. “There has been a partial evacuation of people.”