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Major wildfires sweep through north, south and east Greece

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By Euronews  with AFP/Reuters
Smoke ascends over the village of Vrisa, in the southern part of the Greek island of Lesbos, as the wildfire burn near tourist resorts for the second day, 24 July, 2022.
Smoke ascends over the village of Vrisa, in the southern part of the Greek island of Lesbos, as the wildfire burn near tourist resorts for the second day, 24 July, 2022.   -   Copyright  ANTHI PAZIANOU/AFP or licensors

Fierce wildfires are sweeping through the north, south and east of Greece on Sunday, as a scorching heatwave boils the country. 

Hundreds of residents and tourists have been evacuated from the east Aegean island of Lesbos after forest fires, which broke out yesterday, destroyed homes and threatened villages. 

Greece is currently in the grips of a heat wave with temperatures of 42°C expected in some regions. The extreme weather is forecast to last 10 days, raising fears of other fires.

In the north of the country, firefighters and volunteers are battling -- for the fourth consecutive day ---  a fierce fire in the Dadia National Park, a protected nature reserve, known for its colony of vultures.

This fire forced the evacuation of the village of Dadia Saturday evening, while residents of Chrysokelari in the Peloponnese had to flee blazes near Koroni. 

Extreme weather events, such as forest fires and heatwaves, are becoming more frequent and intense because of human-induced climate change.

Experts have warned that these trends will continue to worsen and grow more severe unless people and governments around the world make significant cuts to their greenhouse gas emissions.

On the island of Lesbos, the fire, which started in the mountainous forests to the west of the island, has spread on two fronts. One towards the village of Vrisa, the other towards the beach resort of Vatera, where at least four homes have been damaged.  

Both fires are still raging, as of Sunday. 

Strong winds in the area are making it harder for emergency services to extinguish the flames. 

“We are battling to save homes,” Taxiarchis Verros, mayor of western Lesbos, told the Greek broadcaster.

81 firefighters with 19 vehicles, 5 civil groups, 9 aircraft and 1 helicopter tried to extinguish the blaze on Saturday. One firefighter was injured, according to regional governor Kostas Moutzouris.

On the advice of the emergency services, Verros ordered the evacuation of the bustling resort town of Vatera as a precautionary measure. An evacuation message was issued by Greece's 112 Emergency Communications Service to those in the area.

Hundreds of people, including many tourists, have been evacuated from the island, with several buses and small boats were taking part in the operation. 

Vatera, an 8 km (5 mile) long sandy beach in the southern part of Lesbos, is a popular tourist attraction.

On Sunday, firefighters were still struggling to bring a raging fire in Dadia National Park under control. 

The nature reserve is described by the park's management as "one of the most important protected areas at national, European and international level" in the Evros region, northeastern Greece.

Emergency services in the area said that the thick smoke released by the fire prevented firefighting planes from intervening and making it difficult to control the blaze. 

A wildfire in mountains near Athens earlier this week damaged homes and forced several hundreds of people to flee, with authorities calling this summer one of the toughest in the Mediterranean.

Last year, wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland across Greece during the country’s worst heatwave in 30 years