Fire crews lose control of blaze near Athens as southern Europe heat wave keeps communities on alert

Full Screen
1 / 14

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Retiree Chrysoula Renieri visits her burned out home in Loutraki, about 82 kilometres (51 miles) west of Athens, Greece, Thursday, July 22, 2023. Renieri, 72, was among dozens of people who lost their home in the area as wildfires tore through hillside scrub and forests outside Athens. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

ATHENS – Evening winds fueled a major wildfire west of Greece's capital Thursday, triggering a series of new evacuations outside Athens as authorities braced for more of the extreme weather that has brought searing heat to southern Europe.

Authorities had declared the huge blaze contained overnight and Greece's Fire Service intensified water drops with the help of extra firefighting aircraft deployed from France and Italy. But firefighters lost control of the fire when the wind picked up, Fire Service officials said.

Recommended Videos



The fire has been raging since Tuesday and already burned 35 square kilometers (13.5 square miles) of forest and scrubland.

Some residents ignored latest evacuation orders to try and save their homes. Chrysoula Renieri, 72, said relatives had helped her try to save the family home near Loutraki, a resort town 81 kilometers (50 miles) west of Athens, but the wildfire cut off water in the area.

“It's all gone. We have suffered too much damage,” Renieri said, standing under a blackened and buckled ceiling in the gutted home.

Stifling heat across Europe’s Mediterranean south created a high or very high risk of fires in Spain, Italy and Greece.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the Fire Service and civil protection authority would remain on alert as a new heat wave moved east across the country. Weather forecasts said temperatures could reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday.

“The hard times are clearly not over yet,” Mitsotakis said. “We are facing another heat wave and a possible strengthening of the winds. So, absolute vigilance and absolute readiness are required over the next few days.”

A state of emergency was declared Thursday on the Greek island of Rhodes, where evacuation orders were issued for several mountain areas.

In Spain, a 42-year-old Moroccan man died from a heat-related issue on Wednesday, Spain’s public news agency EFE reported Thursday. The agency said that the man collapsed on a street in southeast Spain's Murcia region.

Temperatures in Murcia peaked at 44 C (111.2 F) on Wednesday. Malaga hit 44.2 C (111.6 F), matching an all-time record for the southern coastal city, Spain’s weather service said.

Temperatures in southern Spain were expected to fall on Friday before rising again on Sunday, when tje country is holding an early national election.

In Italy, temperatures as high as 44 C were recorded in Sicily, while public health warnings to protect children, older adults and people with health problems remained in effect on the island and much of the Italian mainland.

___

Gatopoulos reported from Athens. Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Loutraki and correspondents from around Europe contributed.