Thousands flee homes in Athens as Greece battles with wildfires amid heatwave

Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Words by ITV News producer Maria Kagkelidou in Athens

Thousands of evacuated Athenians are returning to their homes at the foot of Mount Parnitha to assess the damage caused by wildfires that broke out on Tuesday afternoon amid soaring temperatures.  

Greece is enduring its worst heatwave in decades, with temperatures in parts of the country expected to reach 45 degrees Celsius (113 F).

Damage in the Varibobi area Credit: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

Firefighters in the area are battling to put out the last of the blaze, as their colleagues up and down the country are trying to control some of the 81 raging wildfires the country’s fire service was called to put out earlier in the week.  

"We faced a very difficult fire under an extreme heatwave," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said during a visit to Varibobi, the once-idyllic suburb that has been worst affected by the blaze. At least 80 homes have burned down along with large tracts of precious woodland. 

Thousands flee homes north of Athens as fires rage

Over 500 fire fighters were called upon to battle the fire, along with nine helicopters, seven aircraft, hundreds of police officers and the army.

The flames also damaged part of the national grid, posing a major risk to the Greek capital’s electricity supply which is already stretched to its limits. Greeks have repeatedly been asked to limit their power consumption since the heatwave begun over a week ago. Many are worried the fires would leave them without air-conditioning or trapped in Athens’ high-rise blocks with temperatures soaring to 45C.

Flames burn on the mountain near Limni village on the island of Evia Credit: Michael Pappas/AP

Even the former royal residence in Tatoi came under threat, with authorities rushing to remove valuables to spare them from a possible advance of the flames.

The Greek prime minister warned the country is by no means out of the woods yet.   

"We still have a few days of the heatwave to come and then the winds will start," he warned and asked everyone to stay alert to minimise future damage. 

Europe is grappling with a summer of extreme weather that scientists say is the result of climate change. Over 185 people died in severe flooding in Germany in July and caused extensive damage across other parts of northern Europe.

The wildfires have devastated homes and livelihoods in parts of Turkey

Extreme weather also has fuelled deadly wildfires in Turkey and blazes in Italy, Albania and across the Mediterranean region.

For more than a week, Turkey, to Greece’s east, has been fighting its worst wildfires in a decade. The blaze has swept along its Aegean coast and left eight people dead and forced thousands of residents and holidaymakers to flee their homes and holiday resorts in boats or convoys of cars and trucks

To the west, Italy is also suffering from the extreme weather. The country’s national fire service said it was called to more than 800 wildfires in 24 hours over the weekend – 250 in Sicily, 130 in Puglia and Calabria, 90 in Lazip and 70 in Campania.