Greek firefighters battle to contain wildfires as it awaits EU help

Greek firefighters battle to contain wildfires as it awaits EU help

26 August 2011

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Greece — Firefighters battled to contain a wildfire that burned out of control for the third straight day in north-eastern Greece Friday, forcing the evacuation of villages and destroying tens of thousands of hectares of forest.

Four fire-fighting aircraft from France and Spain were scheduled to arrive later in the day after the government declared a state of emergency, seeking assistance from the European Union.

High winds were fanning wildfires and hampering operations to extinguish the blaze on eight fronts, which burned out of control near the town of Lefkimi, Evros in north-eastern Greece.

The blaze began on Wednesday and rapidly spread near the villages of Melia and Kila, where residents were evacuated.

Hundreds of foreign students at a holiday camp were also evacuated as the fire swept through more than 25,000 hectares of forest and farmland.

Four water-bombing planes, two helicopters and 15 firetrucks were involved in the operation to bring the wildfire under control, while authorities were calling in reinforcements from other parts of the region to assist the more than 200 firefighters and soldiers.

Dozens of forest fires have broken out in the past 24-hours across the country, including Mesolonghi, in central Greece and Ioannina as well as the Ionion island of Zakynthos.

The southern Mediterranean island is often hit by forest fires during the hot, dry summer months, leading to the destruction of thousands of acres of forest and entire villages in recent years.

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