Forest fire rages on, emergency in Greece | world | Hindustan Times
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Forest fire rages on, emergency in Greece

world Updated: Aug 22, 2009 21:55 IST

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The Greek government declared a state of emergency on Saturday as a large forest fire burned out of control on the northeastern outskirts of Athens, sending thick black smoke over the city and damaging dozens of homes.

The fire broke out early on Saturday and quickly spread, fanned by strong, gale-force winds in the area of Grammatiko, about 40 km northeast of the Greek capital.

Within hours, the fire had spread to within 12 km, from the residential area of Grammatiko to Varnava and Kaltetzi, damaging homes and forcing the evacuation of residents.

Fearing casualties and increased damage resembling the fire disaster that struck the country in 2007, the state declared a state of emergency as thick black smoke engulfed the Greek capital.

Hundreds of residents, armed with shovels and buckets, worked side by side with firefighters. Some 35 fire engines, nine planes and five helicopters were also in action to try to extinguish the blaze.

Reports said at least a dozen homes were damaged in the fire as panicked people rushed around to save their property despite warnings from fire officials to evacuate the area.

In an effort to avoid an explosion, emergency forces removed munitions from an army base located in Varnava.

Firefighting officials said more than 100 forest fires were reported to have broken out across the country in less than 24 hours, fanned by high temperatures and gale-force winds.

Three blazes were also reported to be burning out of control on the Ionian island of Zakynthos.

Forest fires have become more frequent in Greece in recent summers, triggered by high temperatures and drought, but also arson.

Greece declared a state of emergency in 2007 during 10 days of blazes that killed more than 80 people on the island of Evia and the western Peloponnese.