Great Britain

Wildfire in western Greece forces village, beach evacuations

A wildfire that broke out Saturday in western Greece forced the evacuation of four villages and people on a beach by the Fire Service, the Coast Guard and private boats, authorities said.

The fire was in a mountain forest 30 kilometers (19 miles) east of Patras, Greece's third-largest city, Citizen Protection Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said late Saturday. Aided by strong winds, the fire raced down the slopes and threatened seaside villages.

The Civil Protection Agency used the 112 European Emergency Number to send text messages to the residents of four villages — two in the mountains and two by the sea — to evacuate. Local media reported that some villagers refused to leave and were trying to fight the fire with garden hoses.

Firefighters told The Associated Press that the fire was a large one, advancing on multiple fronts, although winds had abated somewhat.

Chrysochoidis said on state TV ERT that 290 firefighters were fighting the fire, along with 8 planes, 7 helicopters and a Fire Service special forces boat, which helped evacuate beach-goers and others trapped by the fire near the sea. Coast guard vessels and private boats helped in the evacuation.

The fire shut down the Athens-Patras highway and the 2.9-kilometer (1.8 mile) Rio-Antirrio bridge west of the fire.

A total of 56 wildfires have broken out in the past 24 hours in Greece, aided by a combination of dry weather, a heat wave and strong winds. Most were put out at an early stage, Chrysochoidis said.

The heat wave is expected to peak Monday, with temperatures inland ranging from 42 to 46 degrees Celsius (107.6 to 114.8 Fahrenheit). Temperatures will remain at 40 Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) or above in much of Greece until at least Friday, meteorologists say.

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Andreas Alexopoulos in Ziria, Greece, and Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki Greece, contributed to this report.

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