Forest fire rages in Greece's Peloponnese for second day

Greek firefighters are battling a wind-driven forest fire that has burned through a pine forest and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people near the seaside village of Kechries in the eastern Peloponnese, SIA reports.

Thick smoke billowed above treetops licked by flames as more than 236 firefighters tackled the blaze, assisted by four helicopters, eight planes, municipal staff and volunteers, officials said on Thursday. The fire lightly damaged three homes at the nearby villages of Athikia and Alamano and destroyed one fire truck, without causing any injuries to residents or firefighters.

Officials said they had been forced to order the evacuation of six residential compounds and one summer camp. Overnight the blaze moved near the villages of Galataki and Agios Ioannis, with thick smoke clouding the area. The Greek fire brigade chief was still in the area to coordinate efforts.

On Wednesday, authorities evacuated settlements as the blaze had come close to a military camp where explosives were stored. They also preventively evacuated the "Summerfun" camp, taking children to a safer area near the village's beach. Kechries, a village in the municipality of Corinth, takes its name from the ancient port town of Kenchreai. A beauty spot surrounded by lush forest, it is very popular with local bathers.

Firefighters also battled smaller blazes near ancient Olympia, the western Peloponnese birthplace of the sporting competition that inspired the Olympic Games, near Petalidi further south and on the southern island of Crete. The blazes at Ancient Olympia and on Crete were under partial control by early Thursday, the Fire Brigade said.

Wildfires are common during Greece's hot, arid summers. Massive blazes in 2007 killed about 80 people in southern and central Greece. The Fire Brigade said on Wednesday evening that a total 57 forest fires broke out in 24 hours, most of which were quickly extinguished.

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