Greece Evacuates Athens Suburb Under Wildfire Threat 

A wildfire whipped by gale-force winds blazed through vegetation in a southern suburb of Athens on Saturday, fire authorities said, forcing residents to evacuate and damaging about 20 properties. 

The Greek Civil Protection agency issued an emergency appeal for people to leave Ano Voula as the flames reached homes. 

Officials reported no casualties, but four more neighborhoods were evacuated as the wind changed direction and drove the fire toward the town of Vari, Grigoris Konstantelos, the mayor of Voula, told Skai TV. 

Kostantelos said about 20 houses were damaged. 

Six water-bombing airplanes, three helicopters and municipal water tankers supported dozens of firefighters with 20 fire engines. 

“The situation is very difficult, and the wind does not help,” said Giannis Konstantatos, mayor of  Ellinikon-Argiroupoli, a neighboring municipality. 

“The atmosphere is suffocating, we have difficulty breathing,” he told Athens News Agency. 

Later in the day, the Fire Brigade told AFP that the wind has dropped a bit and they are hopeful the fire will slow its pace.  

Giorgos Papanikolaou, the mayor of Glyfada, where the fire first broke out, said it began at a high voltage electricity power station, according to the agency. 

Later in the afternoon, a second fire broke out near Athens, in the village of Kouvaras, but residential areas were not under threat. 

Last summer, Greece’s most severe heat wave in decades saw fires destroy more than 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland, the country’s worst wildfire damage since 2007.  

More than 200 firefighters and technical equipment provided by European Union countries will be soon deployed to Greece to help boost the battle against large wildfires. 

Bulgaria, Finland, France, Germany, Romania and Norway will take part in the deployment, coordinated by the EU’s Civil Protection Mechanism. 

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