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A firefighter tries to extinguishes a forest fire near the beach resort of Vatera in Greece. AP/PA Images

Hotels and homes evacuated as Greece battles four major wildfires

More than 450 people were evacuated at the Vatera holiday resort on Lesbos.

GREECE’S FIRE SERVICE is tackling four major blazes, including one that led to more than 450 people being evacuated at an island holiday resort.

A fire that broke at Saturday morning on Lesbos prompted authorities to call for the evacuation of the Vatera resort on the island’s southern side.

The fire came very close to the resort and at least one house was engulfed by the flames.

More than five hours after an emergency message was sent by phone to residents, the evacuation was still “ongoing”, fire service spokesman Yannis Artopoios said.

He added that 50 firefighters with 17 fire engines, nine special firefighting planes and one helicopter are tackling the blaze.

Local police said on Saturday afternoon that they had evacuated more than 450 people from two hotels and 92 houses, and that 60 officers were scouring the area for any one who refused to move.

The biggest fire is burning in north-eastern Greece near the border with Τurkey for the third day running, inside a national forest that is the home to rare species, especially vultures.

The Dadia national forest is mostly made up of highly flammable pine trees.

The fire service said 320 firefighters in 68 fire engines, plus six special planes, nine helicopters and numerous volunteers are fighting the fire, while another 200 lumberjacks are cutting firebreak paths through the forest.

Two more major fires are burning on Saturday, one in a remote mountainous area in the region of Western Macedonia and one in south-eastern Peloponnese, Artopoios said.

The European Union gave Greece’s forest service €72 million euro this year to help maintain forests and clear them to prevent fires from spreading.

Greece, unlike other areas in Europe, has so far avoided a heatwave, but temperatures have been rising.

The country’s hot, dry summers and strong winds have combined with the longer-term effects of climate change to increase the overall risk of forest fires.

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