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Greek Wildfire Ranges Near Athens, Homes, Hospital Evacuated

ATHENS - A Greek wildfire fuelled by gale - force winds raged on the mountainous area of Penteli near Athens on Tuesday, damaging homes and prompting authorities to order the evacuation of at least four areas and a hospital.

Heavy clouds of smoke were rising into the sky billowing over Mount Penteli where the fire broke aout at 1430 GMT, some 27 km (16 miles) away from central Athens.

The Parthenon temple on Acropolis hill was covered in red light due to the fire burning in the background. The burning flames were visible from the island of Evia, according to witnesses.

Local media reported that the flames had burned at least one house but the fire brigade would not confirm the information.

About 350 firefighters assisted by 60 engines were trying to tame the blaze, which was burning on several fronts. More than 24 helicopters and planes were earlier dumping water on the flames but the aircraft could not keep flying in the dark for safety reasons.

Authorities have ordered the evacuation of four areas, Drafi, Anthousa, Dioni and Dasamari. They have also advised residents in more areas to be ready to evacuate their homes, if ordered to do so.

Traffic was halted on roads leading to Penteli. One hospital and the National Observatory of Athens were evacuated as a precaution.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months on July and August in Greece.


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