© Reuters. Firefighters operate as wildfires burn near the village of Agios Sotira, west of Athens, Greece, July 20, 2023. REUTERS/Fedja Grulovic
By Fedja Grulovic
ATHENS (Reuters) – Greece struggled to contain a wildfire west of Athens that scorched forests for a fifth day on Friday as another heat wave hit the country.
Firefighters, backed by water bombers and reinforcements from Cyprus, France, Israel and Italy, tried to control the blaze that broke out in the Athens area on Monday, destroying homes and forcing evacuations.
“We continue to fight the fire west of Athens. We fear a major rekindling,” a fire official told Reuters, asking not to be named.
More than 100 homes and businesses were badly damaged by this wildfire and another near Athens that authorities extinguished earlier in the week.
The government on Friday announced relief measures for affected households, including financial aid and subsidies to rent houses.
Two other fires in forests on the island of Rhodes and the Lakonia district in southern Greece were brought under control on Friday.
Climate Crisis Minister Vassilis Kikilias urged people to be on their guard. The risk of wildfires in the coming days will remain high and further heat is forecast following a previous heat wave.
“We are going through a very difficult three-day period, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with extreme weather conditions and very high temperatures followed by strong winds,” the minister said, adding that after a short respite, a new heat wave was expected from the middle of next week.
With temperatures expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) on Saturday and Sunday, the Culture Ministry said all archaeological sites, including the Acropolis monument, will close between noon and 5:30 p.m. (0900-1430 GMT) until July 23.