Greek firefighters on Friday battled wildfires fanned by three days of fierce winds that have left at least one person dead, authorities said.

A 55-year-old man collapsed and died while helping to fight one of four major blazes ravaging the southern Peloponnese peninsula where several villages have been evacuated, according to a fire service spokesman.

Dozens of firefighters battled to put out one blaze near a power station outside the town of Magapoli, with six water-bomber aeroplanes and two helicopters brought in to help, according to the Greek news agency AMNA.

The other fires are in the Argolis, Messenia and Achaea regions of the Peloponnese at a time when the peninsular is starting to hit its peak tourist season.

“The conditions are extremely challenging,” fire department spokesman Vassilis Vathrakogiannis told reporters.

“The wind speeds have exceeded 95 kilometres (60 miles) per hour in some regions,” said Vathrakogiannis, who highlighted how the winds were battering aeroplanes dropping water on the fires.

In all, he said, “45 fire outbreaks have been recorded across the country.”

The man who died was a resident of the Peloponnese village of Myrtia. A fire service spokesman told AFP that according to witnesses he collapsed while fighting the flames around his village. Several homes have been destroyed or damaged by the wildfires.

The fire service contained one blaze near the seaside resort of Mavro Lithari close to Athens, Vathrakogiannis said, urging civilians to take precautions. Two other villages southeast of Athens were evacuated on Wednesday.

Greek authorities have warned of the growing wildfire risk due to strong winds and high temperatures, which in some areas have reached 40 degrees Celsius (101 Fahrenheit).

Accustomed to searing summer heat, Greece has for weeks been preparing for a particularly difficult wildfire season.

After the warmest winter in its history, the Mediterranean nation experienced its earliest-ever heatwave last week, with the mercury topping 44 C (111 F) in some areas.

Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.

The flames consumed nearly 175,000 hectares (432,000 acres) of forest and farmland, according to the National Observatory of Athens.

Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world.

Rising temperatures are leading to extended wildfire seasons and increasing the area burnt by the blazes, according to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Source: AFP