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08 December 2023

Greek island wildfire that forced villages to evacuate eases

Photo: AP


A large forest fire in Greece that forced the evacuation of two villages overnight on the island of Evia was abating Monday, but was not fully controlled yet.

The fire service said four water-dropping planes and another four helicopters were participating in Monday’s operations on Evia, just off central Greece. Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers are on the ground trying to tame the fire.

The blaze broke out Sunday and forced the evacuation of two villages, but fire officials say no damage to homes or injuries have been reported.

Greece is particularly vulnerable to forest fires during its hot, dry summers. On July 23, the country’s deadliest wildfire in decades killed scores of people in the seaside resort of Mati, northeast of Athens.

On Monday, the fire service raised the death toll from that blaze to 95, after a 63-year-old man succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.

An investigation is underway into the causes of the Mati fire, as well as into whether authorities responded adequately to the emergency.

The handling of the blaze by the government, civil protection, police and fire service officials has been heavily criticized for the absence of any official evacuation effort. It has also been alleged that there was poor communication between the agencies involved, and that traffic police directed motorists into the blaze.

Authorities have warned of a high risk of wildfires Monday in the greater Athens region and Evia.