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Greek fire crews make progress on island blaze

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Fire burns forest near Stavros village on the island of Evia, northeast of Athens, on August 14, 2019. – Hundreds of villagers were evacuated on August 13 and the Greek prime minister cancelled a vacation as scores of firefighters battled a major wildfire on the country’s second-largest island of Evia, authorities said. “Conditions are exceptionally difficult and the state’s first priority is to protect lives,” Greek prime minister told reporters outside the fire department’s centre of operations, after cutting short a vacation on his home island of Crete. Four Canadair fire-fighting planes from Croatia and Italy would be deployed on August 14 after Greece requested EU assistance. (Photo by LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

Firefighters in Greece on Friday made progress against a four-day wildfire on the island of Evia that has burned through a pine forest and threatened villages, officials said.

“The situation looks better today, there is no active front, but our forces remain in place,” a fire department spokesman told AFP, adding that there are still “pockets of fire” smouldering in a ravine.

A massive force of nearly 400 firefighters backed by 110 vehicles, nine planes and four helicopters has been deployed against the blaze.

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Two water bombers from Italy and one from Spain are assisting the effort, the spokesman said.

State agency ANA said the fire, which broke out Tuesday, has destroyed over 1,000 hectares of dense pine forest.

EU Humanitarian Commissioner Christos Stylianides on Wednesday called the mobilisation of Greek forces “exemplary” after emergency crews managed to save inhabited areas.

A firefighter was hospitalised with burns on Tuesday, and at least four cars have been burned.

Authorities suspect arson was involved as the fire broke out in three separate locations near the village of Makrymalli.

Two Greek men were arrested Thursday on suspicion of setting fires in the Peloponnese peninsula.

Greece has been hit by a spate of wildfires since the weekend, fanned by gale-force winds and temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

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