ATHENS, Greece -- Greek firefighters were battling a major forest fire in the Corinth region west of Athens for a second day Friday, with more settlements evacuated overnight.
Civil Protection head Nikos Hardalias said Friday that more than 4,000 hectares (nearly 9,900 acres) of mostly forest in mountainous terrain had been burned. Dozens of houses were also destroyed, mostly holiday homes or small dwellings outside of villages.
The fire, which broke out late Wednesday near the village of Schinos, was fanned by gale-force winds that blanketed the Greek capital about 70 kilometers to the west with acrid smoke throughout the day Thursday.
“During the night there were many fronts that were exceptionally dangerous for our forces,” said Hardalias, adding that three settlements and one monastery were evacuated as a precaution during the night.
More than 300 firefighters, ground teams, members of the military and volunteers were fighting the flames, while 21 water-dropping planes and helicopters were deployed at first light Friday to assist from the air.
Despite “exceptionally difficult circumstances,” firefighting forces managed to prevent the flames from reaching a wildlife refuge south of the main fire, and from expanding further east towards the town of Megara, Hardalias said.
The fire destroyed power lines, causing local blackouts, and reached a nearby coastline. The Civil Protection Authority activated a cellphone-enabled alert service to help with evacuation efforts on Thursday and overnight to Friday.