New wildfires starting in Greece - arson suspected
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More wildfires broke out Monday in Greece. The country has been battling heavy wildfires in an extreme heatwave already for two weeks. Two new fires fanned by strong winds triggering evacuation alerts for villages southeast and northwest of Athens.
The first wildfire, which broke out in the morning in the Keratea region southeast of Athens, quickly burned through shrubland and headed in the direction of a national park in the Sounion area.
Three communities in the area were ordered evacuated. The fire department sent in 91 firefighters, six water bomber airplanes and six helicopters, while some residents tried hosing down their homes with water to protect them from the radiant heat.
Dimitris Loukas, the mayor of the Lavreiotiki region told Greek television that arson was suspected as the cause of hte new fires. Local residents had reported seeing someone in a car setting a dumpster on fire in the area.
Northwest, another fire occurred in the Vilia area, which led to an evacuation alert for three other villages. Strong winds were predicted to last until at least the evening. More than 60 firefighters are working in the areas, as well as by eight water-dropping planes and five helicopters.
Tens of thousands of hectares of forest and farmland have been destroyed, along with homes and businesses have been been destroyed. One volunteer firefighter have died, and four have been hospitalized, including two in critical condition in intensive care units.
The fires have stretched fire services to the limit. The Greek government appealed for international help in the beginning of July.
24 European and Middle Eastern countries have allegedly sent firefighters, helicopters, planes and vehicles. By Monday, most of the help had left the region since the fires were considered under control at this point.
The major fires which have been burning in early August the island of Evia and a national park north of Athens) were still not entirely extinguished on Monday, representatives of the Greek fire departments said in a statement.