by Staff Writers
Thessaloniki, Greece (AFP) Aug 9, 2012
Authorities ordered the evacuation Thursday of young families and the elderly as a wildfire near Greece's monastic community of Mount Athos spread towards a nearby town, firefighters said.
The mayor of the city of Ouranoupolis "has given the order to families with children and elderly people to leave the city as strong winds of 39 to 49 kilometres per hour are fuelling the fire," the firefighters' press office told AFP.
Some tourists have also begun to leave the area where there are six big hotels, although they had not been asked to evacuate, local police said.
"The winds are strong and changing direction, which makes it difficult to control the fire," Nikolaos Tsongas, a firefighters' spokesman, told the media.
Ouranoupolis is known as the gateway to Mount Athos, to which visits are restricted to males who obtain a special entrance permit.
Around 25 fire units are battling the blaze which broke out Wednesday in the heart of Mount Athos. Five planes and two helicopters have been called in to help quench the blaze.
The fire initially broke out on Wednesday in the heart of Mount Athos, which is home to around 20 Greek Orthodox monasteries, which are not directly threatened by the flames, fire officers said.
Greece experiences numerous fires every summer that are aided by strong winds and high temperatures. They are often attributed to arson, although perpetrators are rarely caught.
On Wednesday six people, four of them firefighters, were injured in a forest fire raging in the Peloponnese in southern Greece.
The worst recent major blazes, in the Peloponnese and on the island of Evia in 2007, left 77 people dead and ravaged 250,000 hectares.
Forest and Wild Fires - News, Science and Technology
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