Blaze cuts Athens motorway link

Athens (AFP) –


A forest fire broke out on Tuesday cutting the main motorway linking Athens to northern and southern Greece, officials said, as the nation reels under a severe heatwave.

The civil protection service issued warnings to residents to be on the alert as the blaze spread at the foot of Mount Parnitha, 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the capital.

Local media reported dozens of children had been evacuated from a holiday camp in the area near the suburb of Varympompi.

The fire brigade said five helicopters, four water-bombing aircraft, 35 fire trucks and 104 firemen were fighting the flames in the zone that includes the former Greek royal family's summer palace of Tatoi.

"We are facing the worst heatwave since 1987," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this week.

Tourists swelter in the Athens heatwave
Tourists swelter in the Athens heatwave LOUISA GOULIAMAKI AFP

Experts have warned climate change was increasing both the frequency and intensity of the wildfires.

More than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of pine and olive were torched by a fire that broke out on Saturday near the city of Patras, 200 kilometres (125 miles) west of Athens. It was brought under control on Monday.

Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias announced there had been 1,584 fires across Greece in July compared to 953 in 2019, with 116 new blazes in just the previous 24 hours.

Temperatures of up to 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) have been forecast for this week.

A fire on the Greek island of Rhodes, near the Turkish coast, has been burning since Sunday with firefighters struggling to gain the upper hand.