- By Robert Plummer and Kathryn Armstrong
- BBC News
More than a thousand children have been evacuated from a summer camp after wildfires broke out in Greece.
Two separate fires are ravaging the country as it suffers the effects of a scorching Mediterranean heatwave.
In the coastal town of Loutraki, west of Athens, 1,200 children were evacuated as flames approached their camp.
Meanwhile, police arrested a man suspected of starting another fire in Kouvaras, southeast of the capital.
Dozens of people had to leave their homes in the wider area, helped by emergency services crews. Several animals also had to be evacuated, including several horses which were in stables which caught fire.
The Greek government said those whose homes were affected by the fires could be provided with accommodation in local hotels and would then be compensated.
Anna Vlachou, a house owner in Kouvaras, told the Reuters news agency that although her house had not yet burned, there were “many fronts” and no sign of the firefighters yet.
The wildfires were fanned by strong winds, with hundreds of firefighters struggling to contain the spread of the flames.
Greek fire spokesman Ioannis Artopios said that although winds made it difficult for planes to approach safely, firefighters “did everything possible.”
Dimitris Zafiropoulos, a resident of the village of Saronida, near Kouvaras, said firefighters had not arrived there either.
“Some guys tried to save a house but it’s impossible,” he told Reuters.
“The fire is too intense, the wind is very, very strong so they can’t do anything.”
Journalist Daphne Tolis, who is in Athens, said there was no indication anyone was trapped by the flames. She said the coastguard had asked the boats to stay at sea in case evacuation by sea was necessary.
The fires affected transport in some areas, with police forced to close sections of the Athens-Corinth national road. Some train services were also disrupted.
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, currently in Brussels for a summit, said the state was doing everything possible to help.
“Today was the first fundamentally difficult day of this summer,” Mr. Mitsotakis said.
“There is no doubt that others will follow. Wildfires have occurred and will continue to occur. This is also one of the effects of the climate crisis that we are experiencing with increasing intensity.”
Although at least one of the fires is believed to have been started deliberately, scientists say extreme weather is becoming more frequent and intense in many places due to global warming.
According to weather observers, the intense regional heatwave shows no signs of abating. The Greek meteorological service, meanwhile, warned that the risk of new fires remained high.
Greek television showed several houses and cars destroyed by the fire, while thick white smoke rose from burning vegetation.
In the village of Kalyvia, also near Kouvaras, heavy smoke blocked roads and monks were evacuated from a local monastery.
Greece has reached temperatures of 40°C (104F) or more in recent days. The Acropolis of Athens – the country’s most popular tourist attraction – was closed during the hottest hours of Friday and Saturday to protect visitors.
It resumed its usual opening hours on Monday but another heatwave is expected later this week.
Neighboring countries, including Italy and Spain, also experienced unusually high temperatures.
“Temperatures will reach a maximum between July 19 and 23, not only in Italy but also in Greece, Turkey and the Balkans,” Italian meteorologist and climate expert Giulio Betti told the BBC.
“Several local heat records in these areas could well be broken during these days.”