Fire burns through Greek pine forest on island near Athens

Athens covered in smoke as fire crews fight to keep wildfires at bay

Athens covered in smoke as fire crews fight to keep wildfires at bay

Greek authorities on Tuesday afternoon announced that a fourth village, Platania, was evacuated in central Evia as a forest fire that broke out early in the day was ranging south out of control.

Authorities evacuated some 500 residents from the villages of Kontodespoti and Makrymalli as the flames neared homes, officials said.

A state of emergency has been declared in central Evia as more than 227 firemen, supported by six helicopters and six other aircraft, battle the blaze. A volunteer firefighter reportedly burned on the island was transported to a hospital in Athens.

The fire on Greece's second largest island after Crete, located northeast of Athens, started near a protected wildlife habitat at about 3am and was quickly spread by strong winds.

In the last three days fire crews have been called to put out 182 fires.

Mitsotakis added that four Canadair fire-fighting planes from Croatia and Italy would be deployed today after Greece requested European Union assistance. "As I was leaving, the fire was coming behind us".

Dozens more firefighters, two planes and a helicopter tackled a separate forest fire on the northern island of Thassos.

The fire department sent reinforcements to the area, bringing the total number of firefighters to 189. Another wildfire was burning through brush and dried weeds near Thebes, northwest of Athens. The fire trapped people in their cars as they attempted to flee, while many other victims drowned as they tried to swim away from beaches overcome by heat and choking smoke.

Greece often faces wildfires during its dry summer months, and authorities have warned of the high risk of blazes this week.

Previous year a wildfire killed 100 people in the seaside town of Mati near Athens, and in 2007 devastating fires killed 65, scorched thousands of hectares of forest and farmland and threatened archaeological sites.

Yorgos Karahalis and Srdjan Nedeljkovic in Evia, Greece, contributed.