Thousands Flee Fires in Greece; Hundreds Rescued by Sea

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In Greece, firefighters have been battling 56 active wildfires over the past week.

Civil Protection Chief Nikos Hardalias has said that multiple evacuation orders have been  issued for dozens of villages on the mainland, the nearby island of Evia, as well as outlying settlements on the fringes of Athens where the fire has burned forests and houses as it heads for Lake Marathon, the capital’s main water reservoir.

On Evia, the coast guard mounted a major operation on Thursday and into Friday to evacuate hundreds of residents and vacationers by sea, using patrol vessels, fishing boats and other private vessels.

A new evacuation order by sea was issued late Friday for the village of Limni, initially spared by the blaze, where residents were urged to head for the harbour to embark in a ferry boat.

“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 on Evia, told state broadcaster ERT, describing the earlier sea evacuation.

The coast guard said 668 people had been rescued off beaches in northeast Evia by early Friday afternoon after flames cut off all other means of escape.

A coast guard vessel also rescued another 10 people trapped on a beach by another fire near the town of Gythio in the southern Peloponnese region.

Greek and European officials have blamed climate change for the multiple fires burning through southern Europe, from southern Italy to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis Blames Devastating Wildfires on Climate Change