Fires rage in Greece, engulfing an island monastery.


Fires rage in Greece, engulfing an island monastery.

A furious inferno engulfed a monastery and a dozen towns on the Greek island of Evia on Wednesday, destroying at least 150 homes, just one of 40 flames raging across the country.

A fire broke out outside Athens, and flames threatened Olympia, the origin of the Olympic Games, where the mayor called for assistance.

Huge flames sprang up from the forest on Evia, visible from afar in a tough blaze to contain on an island of rolling hills with little visibility, according to firemen.

Firefighters reported three monks from Saint David Monastery refused to leave, and that everyone else had been evacuated from neighbouring communities.

“The flames, which are 30 to 40 meters (100 to 130 feet) high and surround the monastery, are 30 to 40 meters (100 to 130 feet) high. We’re suffocating from the smoke,” one of the monks said over the phone to the ANA news agency.

If the monks’ lives were in danger, police told AFP they would force them to flee.

Locals congregated on a beach and were scheduled to be rescued by boat, while 100 firefighters, two helicopters, and four water-bombing planes were dispatched.

However, the region’s deputy governor, Dimitris Vourdanos, stated that “we are entirely unable to intervene by air or land.”

He told the Kathimerini newspaper that there are two big fronts that are uncontrollable, as well as several minor ones.

“At least 150 houses were burned,” according to the deputy mayor of Mantoudi, a tiny town.

Around 40 fires are burning in Greece, according to deputy minister of public protection Nikos Hardalias, as a severe heatwave sweeps the country, with temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

More than 500 firemen, a dozen water-bombing planes, and five helicopters battled another inferno on the outskirts of Athens, 200 kilometers (125 miles) away.

The fire broke out in a pine forest at the foot of Mount Parnitha, one of three peaks that surround Athens, on Tuesday, sending plumes of dark, bitter smoke over the city and leaving charred dwellings in its path.

In the suburb of Varympompi, 30 kilometers (20 miles) northwest of Athens, a dozen residences were destroyed by the flames, and scores of businesses, clubs, and vacation rentals were seriously damaged, according to officials.

The wildfire was under control by Wednesday afternoon, according to Hardalias.

Residents in Athens have been advised to stay indoors and wear a mask to protect themselves from the ash. Brief News from Washington Newsday.


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