Athens suburb battles wildfires

ATHENS: Emergency services battled to save a monastery and other historic sites on the outskirts of Athens today while wind-whipped wildfires caused further devastation in Greek coastal resorts.

While there was a slight easing in weather conditions, hundreds of Greek and foreign fire fighters were still straining to contain blazes bearing down on the eastern outskirts of the capital, which have already led to hundreds of homes being evacuated and the loss of some 15,000 hectares of pine forests. Anger was also growing over the lack of preparedness by the authorities

exactly two years after the start of similar wildfires that killed 77 people.

“The fires are continuing but with less intensity than in the previous days,” fire service spokesman Yiannis Kapakis told reporters.

More than 500 firefighters have been involved in the

effort to douse the fire around Athens, bolstered by counterparts from France, Italy, Austria, Cyprus and even Greece’s traditional

rival Turkey.

Crews on the ground have been backed up by water-bombers flying overhead and their efforts seemed to be paying off today as the levels of black smoke receded although the smell of burnt wood was all pervading. The fires have threatened some of Greece’s most important archaeological sites including the ancient Athenian fortress of Rhamnous, near Grammatiko, where firefighters were again battling today to hold back the flames.

The plain of Marathon, site of the battle in 490 BC between the ancient Greeks and invading Persians, was also engulfed in smoke over the night.

Meanwhile, fire crews managed to save the Pantokrator Monastery, which was founded in the mid-14th century, from being burned down after the nuns occupying it refused to evacuate.

News also emerged of

other fires bringing havoc

to some of the country’s tourist retreats, including the Ionian resort island of Zante and Skyros, an island in

the Aegean Sea.

Residents voiced anger over the fire crews, with some saying they had been abandoned to face the flames on their own while others made frantic appeals for assistance.

“The fire is 500 metres away and we’re choked in smoke,” a woman from the community of Dioni, threatened by the fires, told Greece’s Mega channel.