Firefighters battle blazes in southern Greece, near Athens 
A man turns away as flames burn on the mountain of Ymittos in Athens - AP

ATHENS: Greek firefighters battled large brush and forest fires on the outskirts of Athens and in the country’s southern Peloponnese region Friday, where flames forced the evacuation of at least three villages and two summer camps.

At least four other wildfires broke out across the country, including one north of the Greek capital. Greece applied for assistance from other European countries.

Strong winds fanned the forest fire in the Lakonia area, on the tip of the Peloponnese. A coast guard vessel and other boats were attempting to evacuate scores of people trapped on a beach by the fire, but those rescue efforts were being hampered by gale-force winds and rough seas.

Local media reported two summer camps and a health center in the seaside town of Neapoli had been evacuated.

Two helicopters, 120 firefighters and nearly 30 soldiers were fighting the Lakonia blaze. Two pilots were injured when their firefighting plane had to make an emergency landing.

In Athens, a large brush fire burned across Ymittos hill on the capital’s outskirts. Strong winds were helping the flames devour parts of the verdant mountainside popular with day-trippers. More than 70 firefighters were battling the blaze, along with local volunteers.

After a lull, the fire’s northern front rekindled, sending flames racing up the mountainside.

Fires also broke out in Koropi, near Athens; at Malakasa, north of the capital; on the island of Evia; and in Argolida in southern Greece.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said Greece has requested help from his country’s army and air force, as well as the European emergency response center. Two water-dropping planes had taken off from the country’s second largest city of Thessaloniki in the north to assist with the Athens blaze, he said.

“All forces are on alert,” Tsipras said, noting that the hot, dry and windy conditions made firefighting more difficult.

Forest and brush fires are common during Greece’s hot, dry summers. In 2007, massive forest fires ravaged southern Greece, devastating dozens of villages and killing about 60 people.

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