ATHENS: Hundreds of firemen struggled yesterday to contain a fire that was raging through a pine forest and damaging homes in a populated coastal area near Athens, a local official said.
Burning through a popular resort area on the outskirts of the capital, the fire is feared to have damaged several properties, and has reportedly already sent six people to hospital with burns, bruises and respiratory problems.
“This is a very difficult fire, weather conditions are bad…and will get worse,” Public Order Minister George Voulgarakis told reporters at the scene. “We’ve brought in units from other parts of the country…(but) it would be best for people to avoid the area unless they have business here.”
The fire department said the situation improved slightly in the afternoon. A number of fronts remained active, and the fire department had no immediate indication on the size of area scorched by the blaze.
An AFP photographer on the scene earlier spoke of “utter chaos” in the region of Rafina, a coastal area 30km east of Athens, where the fire broke out at 10.30am.
At least two homes were gutted by the flames, the photographer said. Greek TV showed footage of three houses on fire.
Pooling forces from neighbouring regions, the authorities mobilised 150 fire engines, 20 water trucks, 280 firemen, eight planes and six helicopters to battle the blaze around Rafina.
Greek media reported that the government suspects foul play, given that the fire broke out in four different locations on a day when winds are expected to reach gale strength.
Several people have already evacuated their homes in the local communities of Agia Triada, Agia Kyriaki and Neos Voutzas, located near Rafina.