Wildfire rages outside Athens fanned by strong winds

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Greek firefighters and aircraft battled a blaze in the town of Koropi 30 kilometers south of Athens on Wednesday as strong winds fanned the flames and forced residents to flee their homes and businesses.

Traffic was suspended along a main highway connecting Koropi to Athens suburbs. One storage facility was on fire and flames crept into a boat dry dock and across fields of dry grass and olive trees, images on local TV showed.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries, a fire service official told Reuters. Civil protection and authorities evacuated two nearby villages.

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It was not immediately clear what caused the blaze. Four fire fighting planes, six helicopters, dozens of fire engines and more than 50 firefighters were dispatched to the scene, the fire service official said.

Much of the Athens area has had no rain for weeks, leaving large areas bone dry.

“I saved my home at the last moment. It all happened so fast,” a resident whose face was blackened by smoke told local Skai TV channel.

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean nation but they have become more devastating in recent years amid hotter and drier summers that scientists relate to the climate change.

After forest fires last year forced 19,000 people to flee the island of Rhodes and killed 20 in the northern mainland, Greece has scaled up its preparations this year by hiring more staff and stepping up training.

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