Residents Flee Forest Fire Near Greek Capital of Athens

A pall of smoke turns large parts of the sky orange, with the ancient Acropolis hill at centre, as a forest fire burns in a mountainous area west of Athens, sending nearby residents fleeing, Monday, July 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Theodora Tongas)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Residents fled their homes Monday as a swift-moving fire blazed through a mountainous pine forest west of Athens and churned out smoke that turned the sky orange over the Greek capital.

The fire department said 80 firefighters with 40 vehicles were on the scene near the seaside settlement of Kineta, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Athens between the capital and Corinth, while seven water-dropping planes and four helicopters were helping from the air.

Authorities were sending 17 firefighting vehicles from across Greece to bolster the forces already in the area.

Strong winds with gusts that were frequently changing direction are hampering firefighting efforts, authorities said.

Three settlements in the area were being evacuated, while a nearly 20-kilometer (13-mile) section on two highways linking the Peloponnese with central Greece was shut down to traffic.

Footage from the Greek TV station Skai showed flames inside yards, and burning at least one house. Some residents were using garden hoses to try to save their properties, while others escaped in cars and on mopeds.

It was not immediately clear how the fire started in the Geraneia mountains near Kineta.

High temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) have been predicted for Greece, and authorities have warned that the risk of forest fires is high.

Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summers. The worst by far occurred in 2007, when large swaths of southern Greece burned, killing more than 60 people.

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