A popular resort on the Greek island of Lesbos as a wildfire destroyed homes in the beachside village of Vatera. The fires sent up thick clouds of smoke blotting out the sun as they drifted over the sea as blazes raged metres away from homes, forcing people to flee while others tried to protect their houses from the embers.
Greece was facing the first day of a heatwave on Saturday that is expected to last 10 days. Temperatures were set to rise to 42 degrees Celsius (107 degrees Fahrenheit) in some regions, sparking concerns over more wildfires.
The fire on Lesbos island broke out at 10:00 local time (0700 GMT) on Saturday and is blazing on two fronts, heading towards the Vrisa village and another inside Vatera.
Police said 450 people were evacuated from two hotels and 92 houses in Vatera.
The Greek coast guard said earlier it evacuated nine people including five foreigners from a beach in Vatera.
Firefighters deployed nine firefighting planes and one helicopter to fight the surging blaze.
West Lesbos mayor Taxiarchis Verros ordered the evacuation of the busy beach resort as a precautionary measure, acting on the advice of the fire brigade, Athens News Agency reported.
At least two houses were ravaged by the fire, state TV ERT said.
On Saturday, firefighters were also battling for a third day a wildfire raging in the Dadia National Park, the country’s largest Natura 2000 site known for its black vulture colony, in the northeastern region of Evros.
Fire brigade spokesman Yiannis Artopoios said on Saturday afternoon that the fire in Vatera was “exceptionally difficult” but there was a “much improved” situation in the northeast.
Some 320 firefighters and 68 fire engines have been battling the fires in Evros, alongside a large number of volunteers.
However, their efforts were hampered by the dense smoke and lack of wind, combined with high humidity during the night, which hindered the effort to fight the fire from the air.
A wildfire in mountains near Athens on Wednesday damaged homes and forced hundreds of people to evacuate after gale-force winds earlier this week.
The country’s worst wildfire disaster was in 2018 in the coastal suburb of Mati, claiming 102 lives, just a few kilometres (miles) from the area affected by Wednesday’s blaze.
On Saturday, a memorial service was held at the seaside town to commemorate the victims.
A heatwave and wildfires last year destroyed 103,000 hectares (255,000 acres) and claimed three lives in Greece.
Fires in parts of France, Spain and Portugal have already burned more land so far this year than in all of 2021 — some 517,881 hectares (5,000 km2), or the equivalent area of Trinidad and Tobago.