Greece evacuates Athens suburb under wildfire threat

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A wildfire whipped by gale-force winds blazed through vegetation in a southern suburb of Athens on Saturday, the Fire Brigade said, forcing residents to evacuate.

The Greek Civil Protection issued an emergency appeal via sms for people to leave Ano Voula and the surrounding areas as the flames spread to within yards (meters) of houses.

Six water-bombing aircraft, three helicopters and municipal water tankers supported dozens of firefighters with 20 fire engines.

Ant1 tv station showed policemen telling people they should leave.

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Media reported a power cut in the area where some roofs, gardens and vehicles had been damaged by the blaze.

Skai tv station showed footage of a burning house with flames licking inside.

“The situation is very difficult and the wind does not help,” said Giannis Konstantatos, mayor of Ellinikon-Argiroupoli, a neighboring municipality, who also heads a conservation group for nearby mount Imittos.

“The atmosphere is suffocating, we have difficulty breathing,” he told Athens News Agency.

Giorgos Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, where the fire broke out, said it all started at a high voltage electricity power station, the agency added.

Last summer, Greece’s most severe heatwave in decades, which authorities blamed on climate change, saw fires destroy more than 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland, the country’s worst wildfire damage since 2007.

More than 200 firefighters and technical equipment provided by European Union countries will be soon deployed to Greece to help boost the battle against large wildfires.

Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and Norway will take part in the deployment, coordinated by the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism.

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