Greek firefighters on Wednesday grappled with fires razing swathes of forest land on the outskirts of Athens, forcing thousands of residents to evacuate and killing animals from tortoises to horses.
The inferno has scorched the slopes of Parnitha, which includes a protected nature reserve, just north of Athens.
It started in a wooden ravine and is the most devastating of the approximately 80 wildfires that have broken out across the country in recent days, including on the island of Rhodes, as temperatures topped 45 degrees Celsius, the hottest day recorded in the region in four decades.
Authorities say the blaze is partially under control, but firefighters remain on alert for fear of flare-ups fanned by light winds that have sent thick plumes of noxious smoke over the capital.
Health officials are advising residents and tourists to avoid local travel and wear protective masks — already in use during the pandemic — to block the inhalation of toxic particles floating in the air.
Numerous water-dropping planes, nine helicopters, and dozens of water cannon are being used to battle the blaze. Soldiers, mountain rangers, and hundreds of volunteers have also joined in, helping evacuate locals as well as more than 100 horses from equestrian clubs in the region.
From early Wednesday, thousands of hectares of forest land were covered in gray ash and at least 80 homes were razed.
The carcasses of burned turtles, turkeys, deer and horses were scattered on the scorched land. Chicken coops were left charred, and herdsmen were seen counting their lost cattle in grazing lands across Parnitha.
Greece's Homeland Security Chief, Nikos Hardalias, said Tuesday night was exceptionally difficult. He said the fire was under partial control on most sides, but that there was "more work to be done."
Two added forest fires remain out of control across the country, including on the island of Evia and the southern Peloponnese.
Authorities on Rhodes elevated the island's fire risk situation, putting the popular vacation destination in a state of heightened alert.
Temperatures across the country have held at over 40 degrees Celsius for more than a week, stretching emergency services and power demands.
And with winds expected to whip up in the coming days, scientist Christos Zerefos said Greece may see fires worsening.