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Greece wildfires leave blackened forests in their wake

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image copyrightAFP
image captionAbandoned cars were left charred after flames swept through the forest

Fires have been raging through a "unique, untouched pine forest" on the Greek island of Evia as authorities fight to keep the flames under control.

Hundreds of people were evacuated from nearby villages as the fire broke out in the early hours of Tuesday and ravaged the dense forest.

"It's a huge ecological disaster," acting regional governor Kostas Bakoyannis told AFP.

More than 200 firefighters are helping to combat the blaze along with 75 fire engines, nine helicopters and seven planes, the news agency reports.

media captionWatch how flames tore through an untouched pine forest, leaving devastation in their wake

Italy and Spain have offered additional aircraft to help dump water on the forests, in an attempt to douse the flames on Greece's second-largest island.

Other wildfires broke out on the island of Thassos, as well as in the central region of Viotia and the Peloponnese. There was also a fire reported in Peania, a suburb of Athens.

Smoke has blanketed Athens, 110km (70 miles) from the island.

image copyrightReuters
image captionA plane flies through the smoke rising from the trees to drop water to try to smother the blaze
image copyrightEPA
image captionA house is torn apart by flames after residents were evacuated
image copyrightAFP
image captionFirefighting helicopters have been dropping water over the pine trees

The fire broke out after a weekend that saw temperatures soaring near 40C (104F) with strong winds.

Newly-elected Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis cancelled his summer holiday plans and acknowledged that firefighters had "given their all" to tackle the flames, often with little sleep and food.

The regional governor, Costas Bakoyannis, told Skai TV the situation seemed to be improving after "superhuman efforts" to control the flames on Tuesday night.

The European Union's humanitarian commissioner, Christos Stylianides, said it "remains difficult", but suggested they might be able to "to limit the ecological losses".

Greece was devastated by wildfires in 2018 that tore through pine forests surrounding Athens, leaving 100 people dead.

image copyrightReuters
image captionBeehives sit amongst the charred woodland on the island of Evia
image copyrightAFP
image captionSmoke rises from a blackened road leading through a forest ravaged by fire
image copyrightReuters
image captionThe trunk of a tree continues to burn amid the blackened forest

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