Firefighting planes resume flights over Greek island fire
By ELENA BECATOROS
August 14, 2019 02:52 AM
ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Water-dropping planes and helicopters resumed flights at first light Wednesday over a major wildfire burning through a protected nature reserve on the Greek island of Evia, where hundreds of people were evacuated from four villages and a monastery.
The aircraft were concentrating on areas where access to the dense pine forest was difficult by land. More than 200 firefighters had been battling the wildfire, which broke out at around 3 a.m. Tuesday morning. One volunteer firefighter was hospitalized after suffering burns.
The flames were fanned by strong winds, hampering efforts to control their spread and carrying smoke from the fire as far as the Greek capital, where the smell of burning wood lingered until late into Tuesday night. The nature reserve is part of the European Union's Natura 2000 network of protected areas.
Milder winds are predicted for Wednesday, and the fire department said the situation appeared much improved from the previous day although the fire had still not been brought under control.
Authorities said there were two active fronts to the blaze, and there had been occasional flare-ups during the night.
A state of emergency was declared Tuesday for the area affected by the fire, while Greece called on the European civil protection system for assistance, with Italy and Croatia pledging four firefighting planes.
Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summer months. Authorities have repeatedly warned the public not to engage in outdoor activities that could cause fires, such as welding work, burning weeds or lighting campfires and barbecues. Parks and forest areas are closed to the public at times of high fire risk.
Last year, more than 100 people died when a fast-moving forest fire broke out in a seaside area northeast of Athens and raged through a nearby settlement of mainly holiday homes. The fire trapped people in their cars as they attempted to flee, while many other victims drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches overcome by heat and choking smoke.
Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Evia, Greece, contributed to this report.
By ELENA BECATOROS
Updated: August 14, 2019 02:52 AM
Created: August 14, 2019 02:24 AM
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