Greece wildfires: Firefighter killed and thousands evacuated as blazes rage

A volunteer firefighter has died in and thousands of people have been evacuated from an island near Athens as wildfires rage in Greece.

Civil Protection chief Nikos Hardalias said firefighters faced “exceptionally dangerous, unprecedented conditions” as they battled 154 wildfires on Friday, with 64 still burning into the night.

“Over the past few days we have been facing a situation without precedent in our country, in the intensity and wide distribution of the wildfires, and the new outbreaks all over (Greece),” he said.

Evacuation orders were issued for dozens of villages on the mainland and the nearby island of Evia, as well as outlying settlements on the forested fringes of Athens.

Homes and businesses have been destroyed, although authorities have been unable yet to provide detailed figures for how widespread the damage is.

Shifting winds and new flashpoints on Friday afternoon caused the blazes outside Athens and Evia to repeatedly change direction, in some cases returning to threaten areas that had narrowly escaped destruction earlier this week.

The firefighter died after a falling utility pole hit his head near Athens, officials said.

At least 20 people have needed hospital treatment across Greece.

The causes of the fires are under investigation.

Mr Hardalias said three people were arrested Friday – in the greater Athens area, central and southern Greece – on suspicion of starting blazes, in two cases intentionally.

Police said the suspect detained north of Athens allegedly lit fires in three separate areas in a neighbourhood ravaged by the large blaze, which first broke out Tuesday.

In the village of Limni on Evia, residents and holidaymakers were ushered to the harbour after all other means of leaving were cut off by flames.

“We’re talking about the apocalypse, I don’t know how to describe it,” Sotiris Danikas, head of the coast guard in the town of Aidipsos, Evia, told state broadcaster ERT.

In Turkey, authorities evacuated six more neighbourhoods near the Mugla province town of Milas as a wildfire burned some 5 kilometres (3 miles) from a power plant.

Two other neighbourhoods were also evacuated as a precaution later in the day, as another fire spread from Yatagan, in Mugla.

At least 36,000 people were evacuated to safety in Mugla province, officials said, and eight people have died in the past 10 days.

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