New wildfires in Greece as Europe braces for more heat

Greece has avoided the heat wave that hit countries in western Europe this week, but fire officials say this summer’s hot and dry conditions have increased the overall risk of forest fires.

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World News

July 20, 2022 - 4:56 PM

A local resident gestures as he holds n empty water hose during an attempt to extinguish forest fires approaching the village of Pefki on Evia (Euboea) island, Greece's second largest island, on August 8, 2021. (Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Battered by heavy winds, firefighters in Greece struggled to contain new fires Wednesday around the capital of Athens while other countries in southern Europe took stock of the damage caused during the latest severe heat wave and prepared for the return of scorching temperatures. Two new fires broke out west of Athens following a round-the-clock effort to halt a blaze in the outskirts of the city that had swept through inhabited areas and forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents. “Given the conditions created by climate change, we have new fires expanding,” Greece’s Civil Protection and Climate Change Minister Christos Stylianides said. “The conditions we are operating under are extremely adverse. Wind gusts have exceeded 110 kilometers per hour (68 mph) in some areas.”

Fires were burning across southern Europe on Wednesday, but authorities in France, Spain and Portugal all reported improved conditions with a respite from the severe heat. French President Emmanuel Macron visited the country’s worst-hit Gironde region, in the southwest, meeting with firefighters who have been battling the flames for a week. French firefighters created huge firebreaks through threatened forests, using heavy machinery to tear out trees and roots, leaving large barren strips to stop the fires.

“You have saved lives,” Macron said, shaking hands with a group of firefighters lined up at the regional fire department.

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