Greece beats back wildfires but firefighters remain on alert

ATHENS: Firefighters in Greece on Saturday succeeded in bringing two large wildfires in Athens and the Peloponnese under control, but remained on alert for further infernos.

Two men, a Greek and a Bulgarian, were arrested on suspicion of accidentally starting a wildfire that ravaged the capital's northeastern outskirts, the fire department said.

The two men, aged 67 and 58, lit a fire to smoke bees out of their hives in order to collect honey.

Friday's fire in the northeastern Athens district of Kareas, at the foot of Mount Hymettus, quickly ripped across several kilometres, threatening homes in another three districts before it was brought under control.

Another fire in the southeast of the Peloponnese peninsula, near the coastal town of Neapoli, destroyed 35 homes and agricultural land, state ERT television reported.

A satellite picture of Greece released by the European Commission showed both fires, with the smoke cloud from the Peloponnese fire covering an area the size of the island of Crete.

Overall, nearly 80 fires broke out in Greece on Friday, the fire department said, prompting the government to request aid from Europe.

France's interior ministry said it was sending Greece two Canadair water-bomber planes and a reconnaissance aircraft.

The aircraft were expected to arrive in the evening, the fire department said.

A new fire broke out Saturday on the island of Skyros.

Authorities have warned that the risk of fires remains high owing to strong winds.