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article imageHigh winds hamper Greek firefighting efforts

By AFP     Aug 15, 2017 in World

Greek firefighters struggled to control blazes for a third successive day Tuesday, as flames fanned by high winds forced people to flee homes near the capital.

Fires on the coast near Athens, in the western Peloponnese and the Ionian island of Zakynthos were of most pressing concern, a fire service spokesman told AFP.

The army was called in to assist firefighters around Kalamos, 45 kilometres (30 miles) east of Athens, where a fire has been burning since Sunday.

At least five properties were destroyed and three others evacuated, authorities said, as smoke from the blaze clouded the sky in the capital on Tuesday morning.

In all, 146 fires have broken out across Greece since Sunday, according to authorities.

Firefighters were also battling flames near the town of Amaliada in the western Peloponnese and on the tourist hotspot island of Zakynthos, where several fires -- some thought to have been started deliberately -- were raging.

"Such a situation is unheard of," regional fire chief Vassili Matteopoulos told local media on Monday.

"We had 22 fires on Zakynthos just in the last 24 hours."

Efforts to control the blazes were complicated by winds reaching speeds of 40-50 kilometres per hour, according to the fire service.

Soaring temperatures and tinder-dry forest floors across southern Europe have led to a rash of devastating wild fires, notably in Portugal, where 64 people died in a massive inferno in June.

Southeastern France and Corsica have also been affected.

In Portugal on Tuesday, some 1,450 firefighters were tending to least four blazes in the central Santarem and Castelo Branco regions, the emergency services said.

And firefighters were battling fresh blazes on Tuesday in Albania, according to the interior ministry. More than 5,000 hectares (12,000 acres) of Albanian forest have been torched since July.

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