Death toll from Greek wildfires rises to 2 as fight against blazes enters 11th day

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
An aircraft operates as a firefighter looks on during a wildfire in Ippokratios Politia village, about 35 kilometres north of Athens, Greece, Aug. 6, 2021.
An aircraft operates as a firefighter looks on during a wildfire in Ippokratios Politia village, about 35 kilometres north of Athens, Greece, Aug. 6, 2021.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis

The death toll from the raging wildfires in Greece stood at two on Saturday morning as the fight against the multiple blazes entered its 11th consecutive day.

A 38-year-old volunteer firefighter died after a falling utility pole struck his head in an area north of Athens affected by the fire, officials said. 

The president of the Athens Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Konstantinos Michalos, was found unconscious in his factory in Krioneri, where the fire is particularly virulent, and was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to a hospital source.

Additionally, two volunteer firefighters have been hospitalised in a critical condition, according to Greek media with a total of 18 people injured, most of them with respiratory problems or minor burns. 

Meanwhile, two people were reportedly detained for suspected arson.

Greek news agency ANA reported that a 43-year-old Greek man was charged with arson after being arrested in the Krioneri area, where fire burned homes and businesses on Friday and that an Afghan woman was arrested in a park near Athens with two lighters, petrol and flammable materials in her possession. 

Authorities have banned access to parks and forests due to the "extreme danger of fire."

At least 1,450 Greek firefighters were deployed on Saturday morning to battle five major fires throughout the country, including north of Athens, on the island of Evia and three fires on the Peloponnese peninsula to the west, fire officials said.

They were aided by reinforcements from abroad including 82 French firefighters and 100 from Ukraine. 

North of Athens, the violent fire continued to advance vigorously towards Lake Marathon, the capital's largest water reserve, after having caused the evacuation of a dozen municipalities. Its thick smoke and pungent smell spread over the capital again during the night, while strong winds are expected during the day.

The motorway linking Athens to the north of the country remained closed as a precaution, while nearby migrant camps were evacuated.

On the island of Evia, more than 1,300 people were evacuated by boat during the night from the coastal village of Limni, which was surrounded by flames. More than 20 others were evacuated Saturday morning from the beach of Rovies.

Local authorities have called for more air support to effectively fight the raging fire on the island, some 200kms of Athens. 

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis promised rapid reforestation of the areas affected by the fires on Saturday morning during a visit to the fire brigade's headquarters in Athens.

 "When this nightmarish summer ends, we will repair all the damage as soon as possible," he told reporters, promising that "the burnt areas will be prioritised for reforestation".

Also on the Peloponnese peninsula, hundreds of hectares were on fire east of the archaeological site of Olympia and in the regions of Magne and Messinia.

More than 5,000 residents and tourists were forced to flee the fire in Magne, where Mayor Eleni Drakoulakou estimated that 50% of the area in the eastern part of this mountainous and tourist region was burnt.