Big wildfire rages near Athens, forces evacuation

A wildfire fanned by strong winds rages south of Athens forcing he evacuation of a boarding school and six residential areas, news wires reported. The settlement of Feriza and five more areas about 45 km from Athens have been evacuated, a fire brigade official said. Earlier, about 30 children were transferred from the boarding school to a nearby hotel.

At least 114 firefighters supported by 35 fire engines, five aircraft and eight helicopters battled the blaze, which broke out around midday on Wednesday. "We were burning, trying to put out the flames with buckets of water, we couldn't breathe," one local resident told state TV ERT, adding that police had evacuated them.

Thick, dark smoke blanketed the area and state TV showed residents prior to their evacuation using garden hoses to water the ground to help protect their properties.

Greece often experiences wildfires during its dry summer months. Temperatures have remained high for the season, and authorities warned this week of a high risk of blazes. A forest fire was also burning on Wednesday near the seaside town of Nea Makri, northeast of Athens, the fire brigade said.

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