State of emergency declared in Greece after heavy forest fires

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

A state of emergency was declared in Greece after major wildfires started burning out of control on the northeast edges of Athens. Fire crews, aided by water-bombers and helicopters, have been dispatched to the affected areas to try to contain the fires.

According to Greek authorities, the wildfires started late on Friday near Grammatiko, a village located 25 miles northeast of downtown Athens. The blazes, strengthened by heavy winds in the area, eventually reached neighbouring Varnava and Marathon on Saturday morning.

Officials say that 70 fires broke out across the country since Friday night, according to the Associated Press. Fire department spokesman Yiannis Kapakis said that "this is a difficult fire because it is a mixed area with homes and forest, meaning that firefighters are focusing their attention on protecting lives and properties." He urged residents of the towns threatened by the fires to evacuate.

Despite the state of emergency being called, no casualties have yet been reported as a result of the fires.

The fires are reportedly the worst in mainland Greece since 2007.