Thousands flee large fire in northern Athens: “Behind us is hell”

The fire department is unable to get a large fire, north of the Greek capital Athens, under control. The flames reached the first houses of some suburbs Tuesday afternoon. Residents, meanwhile, are leaving the affected area in panic. “Behind us is hell,” one resident shouted from his car to a reporter at the scene. Thick clouds of smoke are visible from all over Athens.

The fire had started earlier in the day at the foot of the Parnitha Mountains, a forested area some thirty kilometers north of Athens. The flames have since spread to inhabited areas, particularly Varympompi, a neighborhood in Acharnes. Thick plumes of smoke are visible from all parts of Athens.

The Varympompi fire brigade has advised residents of part of that neighborhood to leave the area. That was also the message that mayor Spyros Vettos of Acharnes spread on the television channel ERT on Tuesday afternoon: “Get out of your houses quickly”, was his appeal.

Earlier, local media reported that the emergency services evacuated dozens of children from a youth camp as a precaution.

There are reports of people being trapped by the fire. Power went out in several places in the region.

More than 300 firefighters are fighting the flames in Varymbombi. Seventy trucks, five helicopters, and five fire-fighting planes are deployed.

Greece has been struggling with a historic heatwave for more than a week. Temperatures of 44 degrees Celsius were measured in Athens on Tuesday.

Weather experts have been warning about fires of this magnitude for days. Forest fires are also raging elsewhere in Greece. For example, three villages in the south of the Peloponnese had to be evacuated on Tuesday.

The authorities assume that the risk of wildfires will remain very high even after the heat wave’s end due to the country’s ongoing drought and forecasted strong winds.

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