ALEXANDROUPOLIS, Greece (Reuters) – Dozens of hospital patients were evacuated onto a ferry in the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis early on Tuesday, the fire brigade said, as wildfires in the area raged uncontrolled for the fourth day, killing one person.
Hundreds of firefighters have been struggling to contain the blaze that broke out near Alexandroupolis on Saturday and quickly spread, fanned by gale force winds, sending plumes of smoke above the city and turning the night sky bright red.
Authorities said 65 patients at the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis had been evacuated by early Tuesday as a precaution onto a ferry in the port. Another 14 people were evacuated by a coast guard vessel from a beach near the village of Makri.
“Under extreme weather conditions, mainly due to gale-force winds, a huge effort has been made to manage fire fronts that broke out simultaneously in many parts of the country,” fire brigade spokesperson Ioannis Artopios said late on Monday.
“The hours we are going through are extremely critical.”
Several communities in the broader Evros region, near the border with Turkey, have been evacuated as authorities warned the risk of new fires remained high in the coming days.
The burned body of a man believed to be a migrant was found in a rural area in Lefkimi, near Alexandroupolis, on Monday, a local police official told Reuters.
Evros is a popular border crossing for hundreds of migrants from the Middle East and Asia who use the river by the same name separating Greece from Turkey to cross into the European Union.
Summer wildfires in Greece are common but have been made worse in recent years by unusually hot, dry and windy conditions that scientists have linked to climate change.
More than 20,000 foreign tourists had to be evacuated from the holiday island of Rhodes in July as wildfires burned for a week, destroying hotels and resorts.
Firefighters in Spain also battled on Monday to stabilise a huge wildfire that has devastated forests on the island of Tenerife for six days.
In Greece’s northern seaside city of Kavala, two firefighters were injured on Monday while trying to contain a blaze threatening homes in the village of Dialekto, the fire brigade said.
Fires were also burned on the island of Evia near Athens, as well as on the island of Kythnos and in Viotia in central Greece.
(Additional reporting and writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
By Alexandros Avramidis