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Two More Villages Evacuated as Greek Firefighters Cope with Fire for 2nd Day

ATHENS — Evacuation of two villages west of Megara was for preventative reasons, the Fire Brigade press spokesperson told Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Friday, following two days of battling a fire that started in Schinos, in the Loutraki area of Corinth prefecture on Wednesday night.

Papagianneika and Kalkani communities in the area of Pefkeneas left their homes in their own cars, spokesperson Vassilis Vathrokogiannis said, adding that besides the large fire further west, firefighting efforts are focused on controlling the rekindling of several pockets of fire west and northwest of Megara.

Firefighting forces from central Greece have converged in the area around the Gerania mountains, where the fire is burning dense pine forest. A total of 278 firefighters are deployed, with 89 firetrucks, 10 rough terrain groups from the army, and 18 dowsing planes with 3 helicopters, in addition to water trucks and other auxiliary vehicles. The operation is being coordinated by the mobile operations center 'Olympos' which is in the vicinity.

Firefighters were battling the major forest fire in the Corinth region west of Athens for a second day Friday, with more settlements evacuated overnight.

Civil Protection head Nikos Hardalias said Friday that more than 4,000 hectares (nearly 9,900 acres) of mostly forest in mountainous terrain had been burned. Dozens of houses were also destroyed, mostly holiday homes or small dwellings outside of villages. 

The fire, which broke out late Wednesday near the village of Schinos, was fanned by gale-force winds that blanketed the Greek capital about 70 kilometers to the west with acrid smoke throughout the day Thursday.

"During the night there were many fronts that were exceptionally dangerous for our forces," said Hardalias, adding that three settlements and one monastery were evacuated as a precaution during the night. 

More than 300 firefighters, ground teams, members of the military and volunteers were fighting the flames, while 21 water-dropping planes and helicopters were deployed at first light Friday to assist from the air.

Despite "exceptionally difficult circumstances," firefighting forces managed to prevent the flames from reaching a wildlife refuge south of the main fire, and from expanding further east towards the town of Megara, Hardalias said. 

Read also: Hardalias: The Overall Picture of the Fire Much Better on Friday

The fire destroyed power lines, causing local blackouts, and reached a nearby coastline. The Civil Protection Authority activated a cellphone-enabled alert service to help with evacuation efforts on Thursday and overnight to Friday. 

Τhe situation regarding the wildfire that has been raging for two days in the Geraneia Mountains is somewhat better on Friday morning compared to the previous night, according to the latest information from the Fire Brigade. The firefighters were battling the blaze overnight, while a total of 12 fire-fighting aircraft and three helicopters took off early on Friday to assist from the air.

Α total of 278 firefighters are operating in the area, with 89 vehicles, 10 teams on foot, the fire brigade's special motorised unit, the mobile operation centre "Olympus", 12 planes and two water-dropping helicopters, as well as one fire brigade helicopter. At the same time, volunteer firefighters and construction equipment were assisting in the effort to extinguish the fire.

Wildfires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers, but this blaze started well before the full heat of summer. The country had been experiencing unseasonably hot weather over the past week. In 2018, a blaze that hit the summer resort area of Mati east of Athens killed more than 100 people. 

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