Evacuations ordered in northern Athens as fire expands


[Giorgos Zachos/InTime News]

Dozens of homes were being evacuated in northern Athens on Tuesday afternoon as a wildfire that started earlier in forestland near the suburb of Varibobi raged out of control and expanded to three new fronts amid tinder-dry conditions brought on by the worst heatwave Greece has experienced in decades.

The initial blaze began near the former royal summer residence in Tatoi around midday on Tuesday, but has now spread to Ano Varibobi, near several horse-riding centers, and to an area just outside the residential settlement of Adames, prompting its evacuation and the closure of a section of the national highway nearby.

“The situation is not good at all. The fire is heading to Varibobi and is very close to houses,” Spyros Vrettos, the mayor of Acharnon – to which Varibobi belongs – told Skai television on Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities have also evacuated a camp near the main square of Varibobi, a leafy suburb and popular getaway for city dwellers with summer homes in the area. The camp’s 80 or so children were taken by bus to the nearest metro station where they were picked up by their parents.

Greece’s Civil Protection Authority is also sending out alerts to cellphones in the vicinity of the fire, urging people to leave the area, while residents in outlying suburbs like Erithrea have been advised to close windows and chimneys to stop smoke and ash from getting in their homes.