Athens Wildfires Burn for Second Day, Threatening Homes, Forests

A wildfire near the Greek capital is still burning and is expected to spread further on Wednesday as winds pick up speed.

(Bloomberg) — A wildfire near the Greek capital is still burning and is expected to spread further on Wednesday as winds pick up speed. 

The fire that broke out in Fili yesterday moved southwards during the night and is still threatening properties and a forest on one of the last green mountains around Athens. Fili, a small municipality in the foothills, is about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) northwest of the capital, yet smoke from the fire has drifted to central Athens, making it unpleasant to breathe even in enclosed spaces. 

Greek authorities have ordered the evacuation of several areas around the blaze, including three senior citizens’ homes in a northwest suburb, according to state-run ERT TV. On Wednesday morning more than 200 firefighters, two planes and five helicopters were working to contain the conflagration and an additional 5 planes and 3 helicopters had been dispatched to join fire-fighting efforts. Many residents are choosing to stay in the area to protect their homes.

In the northeastern region of Evros, a fire that started on Saturday morning is continuing to spread and is now heading west. Eighteen people were found dead in a scorched forest in the area on Tuesday, two of whom were children, according to authorities. 

As no residents have been reported missing from nearby villages, authorities said the victims were migrants who had crossed the nearby border with Turkey. In a separate incident, three civilians were arrested near Alexandropoulis for holding several migrants captive in a trailer, spurring debate on social media around the highly-charged issue.

Opposition parties are now criticizing Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for his handling of the fires, which in the past three days have burned over 99,000 acres. Mitsotakis plans to bring the issue up for debate in parliament, according to the government’s spokesman. 

The fires are the latest instance of extreme weather in a summer that has seen record-breaking temperatures, violent storms, flooding and wildfires stun Europe and North America. In July, wildfires in Greece destroyed homes, forests and led to the deaths of livestock and wild animals, while in the past 24 hours alone the fire service has been called on to extinguish 93 blazes. 

(Updates details throughout)

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