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Highways closed, oil refinery threatened by Greek forest fire

A wildfire raged in the hills outside the Greek capital on Tuesday in sweltering heat, forcing authorities to close highways to help protect an oil refinery.

Water-dropping planes and helicopters flew down though a blanket of smoke turned orange as the sun set to battle two wildfires west of Athens before nightfall.

The European Union pledged additional aid, while forecasts indicated more extreme heat was to come.

Wildfires threaten vacation homes near Athens, Greece

Italy and France were sending two firefighting planes to help Greece. The planes and their teams are part of the European Union’s civil protection mechanism, and will join 30 Romanian firefighters already deployed in Greece as part of the seasonal EU fire program, European officials said on Tuesday.

Fire service spokesman Vassilis Varthakoyiannis said the central fire near Athens quickly became a major crisis. “The fire service had to intervene on a number of occasions to get people out of their homes,” the spokesman said.

Forest fires are raging in Greece on Tuesday as authorities try to prevent the blaze from reaching an oil refinery. (AP Photo/Thanasis Stavrakis)

Officials canceled holidays and left for firefighters, while Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis cut short a visit to Brussels to return to Athens to meet with the heads of the fire service and civil protection agency.

Wildfires continued to rage north and west of Athens on Tuesday, including one near the resort town of Loutraki, where more homes were damaged and evacuations extended.

In the fire-prone town of Myndara, west of Athens, police rushed through narrow streets to help residents get into cars as the flames approached. Earlier, police had helped nuns escape from an Orthodox Christian monastery on a hilltop that was also under threat.

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A number of small fires also broke out near the capital, where winds have moderated but where extreme temperatures last week have dried out scrub and forest land.

Parts of two highways connecting Athens to the western city of Corinth were closed to give firefighters better access to the blaze and to prevent flames from reaching a major oil refinery, officials said.

Greece also activated a rapid mapping assessment system, which uses EU satellite data to estimate fire damage.

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A second heat wave is expected on Thursday, with central and southern parts of the country expected to reach 44 C (111 F) by the end of the week. ___ Gatopoulos reported from Athens.

Source by [Fox News]



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