Greece fights dozens of wildfires in 'most difficult day of year'

Greece is battling dozens of wildfires -- one at Mount Parnitha, known as "the lungs of Athens" was brought under control late Saturday (Aris MESSINIS)
Greece is battling dozens of wildfires -- one at Mount Parnitha, known as "the lungs of Athens" was brought under control late Saturday (Aris MESSINIS)

Firefighters were battling a series of wildfires near the Greek capital Athens on Sunday afternoon, as the country braces for another scorching summer.

Greece faces a tough wildfire season after its warmest winter and earliest heatwave on record, with temperatures hitting 44°C (111°F).

Two large wildfires were raging in Attica Sunday afternoon, with residents told to evacuate from eight areas near the capital.

Some 140 firefighters, with teams of forest commandos, 39 vehicles, eight helicopters and nine aircrafts were working to control the flames in Keratea, south of Athens.

Ertnews channel reported that at least four houses were completely destroyed.

"The situation is very difficult, as strong winds continue to blow, they have not subsided and the outbreaks are many," the mayor of Lavreotiki, Dimitris Loukas, told Athens News Agency.

"We are fighting a great battle."

He warned that "the wind is very strong and is constantly creating outbreaks".

However he said that the nearby military air base was not currently in danger from the flames.

It came a day after another wildfire had erupted in the same area, sparking evacuation orders but was later successfully controlled.

North of Athens, another blaze ignited in the suburb of Stamata and authorities have sent emergency messages for inhabitants to evacuate.

Fire brigade spokesman Vasileios Vathrakogiannis said it was "the most difficult day of the year so far for the Fire Brigade."

- Island fires -

A fire also broke out Sunday in an industrial zone in Ritsona, near the island of Evia.

Black smoke has filled the sky above Ritsona after the fire started in a recycling factory, burning various flammable materials that were in the grounds around it, including tyres and mattresses.

Firefighters are positioned along the old Ritsona national road and are fighting to prevent the flames from spreading beyond the recycling plant to other factories in the area.

The fire is also near a refugee centre, but the Athens News Agency reported that this was not believed to be in danger.

Separately, a large wildfire broke out on Serifos island on Saturday afternoon, but was also brought under control by firefighters early Sunday.

"All of southwestern Serifos has burned. We are talking about an area where the fire stopped at the sea," Serifos mayor Konstantinos Revintis told MEGA TV.

The fire caused damage to houses, cottages, warehouses and chapels, according to the mayor.

The Fire Danger Forecast Map issued for Sunday by the Civil Protection Ministry predicted a very high category 4 risk of fire for Attica, the Peloponnese, Crete, the North and South Aegean Regions, and central Greece.

A wildfire ignited Saturday afternoon in the area of Mount Parnitha-- known as "the lungs of Athens" -- was controlled Saturday evening with the help of reinforcements from other regions as well as volunteer firefighters.

More than forty wildfires erupted across Saturday in Greece with wind speeds exceeding 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour, according to fire brigade sources.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called on Greeks to brace for a difficult wildfire season in his weekly Facebook post on Sunday.

"The difficult times are still ahead of us. Our effort is continuous. In this effort, our allies are new tools that build a new culture of prevention and responsibility," he said.