by Staff Writers
Athens (AFP) Aug 18, 2012
Greek fire-fighters on Saturday battled a blaze, fanned by strong winds, on the island of Chios, where billowing smoke forced the evacuations of three villages.
Ten water bombers and five helicopters were deployed as 50 fire-fighters and almost 80 army troops worked to contain the wildfire on the eastern island. They also used 17 fire engines and were backed by 40 volunteers.
The wildfire started in the early hours of Saturday in the island's south, and the evacuation was carried out on the initiative of the villagers because of the heavy smoke that covered the area.
"The fire is close to inhabited areas but for the time being has not posed an immediate threat," a fire department spokesman told AFP.
Strong winds of up to 63 kilometers (39 miles) per hour hindered helicopters and water bombers from trying to draw water from the sea because of high waves, the spokesman said.
Further help was under way from other parts of Greece, including 20 fire engines and 85 firefighters, said the defence ministry.
Greece is hit by wildfires, many started by arsonists, every summer, the flames fanned by high temperatures and strong winds.
Earlier this month, a wildfire blazing for five days threatened Mount Athos, the world's oldest surviving monastic community and a UN World Heritage Site, in northern Greece.
The worst major blazes of recent years hit in 2007 in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece and on the island of Evia, leaving 77 people dead and ravaging 250,000 hectares.
Forest and Wild Fires - News, Science and Technology
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