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Greek blazes mostly under control — firefighters

By AFP - Jul 30,2023 - Last updated at Jul 30,2023

A photo shows burning vegetation during a wildfire near the city of Volos, central Greece, on Thursday (AFP photo)

ATHENS — Wildfires that have scorched Greece for more than two weeks were on Saturday mostly under control, but firefighters remained in key hotspots with strong winds still a threat, officials said.

Three fires broke out on Saturday in the Peloponnese peninsula, with authorities protectively ordering the evacuation of four communities near the city of Pyrgos.

Over 100 firefighters are active in the area, backed by seven aircraft and two helicopters, the fire department said.

Earlier Saturday the agency had told AFP there was "no active front" in the three biggest wildfires in Rhodes, Corfu and central Greece that had forced thousands of people to flee in recent days.

Nevertheless, more than 460 firefighters were still deployed in these three areas as a precaution, it said.

"There is no de-escalation of forces until the major incidents are checked," it said.

Fed by scorching temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds, the two-week inferno had sparked chaos at the peak of the busy summer tourist season.

Some 20,000 visitors and locals fled from hotels and villages on the island of Rhodes. Hundreds more were evacuated in Corfu and other areas.

The fires killed at least five people and scorched nearly 50,000 hectares of forest and vegetation, according to estimates by the Athens Observatory.

Two pilots died on Tuesday when their water-bombing plane crashed while battling a blaze in Evia, while three more bodies were recovered in fires in Evia and near the industrial zone of the port city of Volos in central Greece.

The blazes have also put political pressure on the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which was reelected just a month ago.

The citizen's protection minister resigned his post Friday after it emerged that he had taken a vacation as the country battled the wildfires.

For more than 10 days this month, Greece sweltered under what some experts say is the longest heatwave recorded in July for decades.

Temperatures, which reached 46oC this week, have begun to fall.

National weather forecaster EMY predicted the mercury would not climb above 37oC on Saturday, but said wind gusts could reach 60 kilometres per hour.

Fires have also flared in Croatia, Italy and Portugal this week, and blazes killed 34 in Algeria in extreme heat that has left landscapes tinder dry.

 

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