ATHENS — Greek firefighters on Wednesday were working to put out a blaze that broke out on Tuesday on forestland north of Athens, burning dozens of homes and turning large swaths of land to ash, with similar efforts underway to douse wildfires in the southern Peloponnese peninsula and other parts of the country.
Thousands of people were forced to flee their homes on Tuesday after a large wildfire tore through the area north of Athens, spreading to several settlements. Many more people were rescued by firefighters after becoming trapped in their homes. Residents fled on cars, on motorcycles, even by foot, while dozens of horses were released from a riding club in the area and were seen wandering through local streets.
Τhe government said it would provide hotel accommodation for local residents unable to return to their homes for as long as necessary.
The fire was fueled by days of drought as temperatures reached 45 Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) amid a searing heat wave that officials described as the worst since 1987, when more than 1,000 people died.
Televised footage of the affected areas north of Athens on Wednesday morning showed the charred hulks of homes and cars amid blackened trees as a heavy smog hung over the capital and flecks of ash fluttered through the air.
With the country in the midst of a record heat wave, the National Observatory of Athens on Wednesday appealed to people to remain in their homes with the windows closed if possible, warning that the fire had significantly worsened the capital’s atmospheric pollution.
The fire north of Athens was the worst of scores that broke out around the country on Tuesday.
Referring to an “extremely difficult night” of firefighting, Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said only one of that fire’s four fronts remained active on Wednesday morning. Speaking outside the fire service’s control center in Athens, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the authorities would remain on alert to minimize damage over the coming days as sweltering temperatures continue, with winds forecast to pick up on Friday.
“Thank God we have had no loss of life until now,” Mr. Mitsotakis said.
Ηe added, however, “There are still difficulties ahead, we have days of heat wave and wind to come.”
Firefighters also battled blazes on the island of Evia, north of Athens, and in the Messinia area of the Peloponnese peninsula where dozens of homes were also burned.