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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Athens covered in thick pall of smoke from wildfires

The city of Athens was covered in a thick pall of smoke from the wildfires in its northern suburbs.

Athens, Greece

Greek fire fighters largely subdued a major fire in the northern suburbs of Athens on Wednesday, August 4, 2021 before gusts that could have fanned them returned.

Since the first morning light, helicopters and planes have been deployed to contain the fires.

However, the entire city was now covered in a thick pall of smoke that would not dissipate due to lack of wind, while a fresh gust could reignite the fire.

“It is a nightmare fire on the outskirts of the city,’’ said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after a tour around the affected area.

The top priority, he said, “is to save lives’’.

More than 80 houses have been destroyed by the flames so far since the fire began on Tuesday.

At the same time, there was great relief because, as things stand, the fire has not claimed any lives.

Residents of the evacuated villages were putting up in hotels at state expense for the time being, and Mitsotakis promised to rebuild the houses.

Almost all residents in Athens are suffering not only from the sweltering heat, but also from pollution caused by the clouds of smoke.

The Greek health authority reported a pollution level of up to 465 microgrammes of fine dust per cubic metre at the city centre.

For comparison, the EU-wide limit is 50 microgrammes per cubic metre of air.

Anyone, who ever tries to steps out onto the balcony, immediately feels the effects of the pollution, watery eyes, scratchy throat and trouble breathing.

Residents were being asked to stay indoors and to keep the windows closed.

The European Commission was swiftly mobilising support to assist countries in limiting the spread of the fires and protect lives and livelihoods.

Two fire fighting planes from Cyprus are supporting Greece and a fire fighting team to support operations on the ground.

“We are working around the clock to send help as fires rage across Europe,’’ Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarcic, said.

“At this time, as several Mediterranean countries are facing fires, EU Civil Protection makes sure that our fire fighting tools in place are used at maximum capacity.’’

Extreme temperatures around 43 to 44 degrees Celsius are again expected in Athens on Wednesday.

The sweltering heat will continue until the weekend, the meteorological office said.

Fires also broke out on the Island of Euboea, on the Peloponnese Peninsula and on the Islands of Kos and Rhodes, popular among holidaymakers.

A total of 40 fires were raging across the country late on Tuesday, a civil defence spokesperson said.

Hundreds of houses were burnt or damaged, according to a first estimate.

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