Sky over Athens turns orange as forest fire sends huge pall of smoke and ash across Greek capital

·1-min read
<p>Athens is pictured through smoke as a wildfire burns in the Corinth region</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Athens is pictured through smoke as a wildfire burns in the Corinth region

(AFP via Getty Images)

Athens was shrouded in a huge cloud of smoke and ash on Thursday as a large forest fire gutted and damaged dozens of homes and prompted evacuations.

The fire raged about 45 miles west of the Greek capital sending a pall of smoke across the southern mainland, including Athens where it obscured views of the Acropolis.

Water-dropping planes and three helicopters were involved to try to contain the blaze that started outside the resort town of Loutraki.

Authorities issued evacuation orders for 18 settlements, in areas with many holiday homes. Two Orthodox Christian monasteries and one convent were also evacuated.

The fire destroyed power lines, causing widespread blackouts, and reached a nearby coastline damaging several fishing boats.

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Fire department spokesman Lt. Col. Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said more than 180 firefighters were deployed on Thursday, with the effort focused on stopping the blaze reaching the town of Megara, where more than 30,000 people live.

Fire burns among houses in the village of SchinosAP
Fire burns among houses in the village of SchinosAP

"The fire was hard to deal with overnight. But the use of aerial means after daybreak was key. The situation did improve after that point but it remains dangerous with fires rekindling at many locations," he said.

He said a lull in high winds also helped firefighters but officials noted that winds of up to 37 mph were expected before nightfall.

Smoke covers the centre of Athens with the Parthenon temple seen on top of the Acropolis hillREUTERS
Smoke covers the centre of Athens with the Parthenon temple seen on top of the Acropolis hillREUTERS

Wildfires are common during Greece's hot summers. A blaze that hit coastal areas east of Athens in July 2018, around the seaside resort of Mati, killed at least 102 people.

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