August 20, 2009 / 4:33 PM / 10 years ago

Wildfire rages near Athens, threatens homes

A fire-fighting helicopter drops water over a forest fire in Magoula village, a few miles northwest of Athens, August 20, 2009. REUTERS/Yiorgos Karahalis

ATHENS (Reuters) - A wildfire raged close to a village near the Greek capital Athens, sending people fleeing from their homes and workplaces Thursday and damaging buildings, officials said.

More than 100 fire fighters with 25 fire engines and five helicopters battled the flames in an industrial area near Magoula, about 20 km (12 miles) northwest of Athens, while strong winds fanned the blaze.

Residents and workers with hoses and buckets filled with water stood by, while a warehouse and two trucks were on fire, a Reuters witness said.

“There are strong winds in the area. We are concerned because the fire is raging near factory warehouses,” a fire officer said.

Gale-force winds fanned more than 50 blazes across Greece on Thursday, the fire brigade said, urging people to avoid activities that could trigger a fire.

Another fire burning in central Greece, near the town of Astakos, had damaged at least two houses, officials said. About 30 fire fighters, 11 fire engines and three aircraft were trying to tame the flames.

Wildfires are frequent in Greece during the summer, often caused by high temperatures, drought or arson. Hundreds of fires have scorched swathes of forest land across the country since the beginning of August.

Greece saw its deadliest wildfires in memory in 2007, when blazes on the island of Evia and the southern Peloponnese peninsula raged for more than 10 days, sweeping through dozens of villages and killing 65 people.

Reporting by Renee Maltezou and Yiorgos Karahalis; Editing by Richard Williams

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