23:20 GMT02 December 2020
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    ATHENS (Sputnik) - A massive fire is raging near the Greek town of Paiania, an eastern suburb of Athens, with police evacuating local residents, Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection said on Monday.

    "Today, at 3:18 a.m. [00:18 GMT] in Paiania, Attica, at the foot of Hymettus [mountain], a forest fire broke out", the secretariat said in a statement.

    It added that a powerful firefighting force consisting of 133 firefighters and 42 vehicles had immediately been sent to the site. It has since been reinforced by squads from neighbouring areas, according to the secretariat.

    In addition, all civil protection forces and water tanks from the capital region of Attica, the local government and the neighbouring regions of Peloponnese and Central Greece had been sent to the fire-ravaged area.

    The anti-arson authority has been investigating reports by Paiania residents that the fire erupted at several locations following a loud bang.

    Police units were dispatched to the town to facilitate the evacuation of local residents.

    On Saturday, the Greek authorities declared a "red" wildfire alert over 40 degree Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) heat and strong winds. Despite all the preventative measures, 59 wildfires broke out on Saturday, with 63 more recorded on Sunday.

    In July 2018, the resort village of Mati, near Athens, was hit by a devastating fire. The tragedy killed over 100 people, with flames engulfing the whole settlement within just 1.5 hours.

    At the time, the party New Democracy, which was in the opposition, harshly criticised the authorities for failing to organise an evacuation. The tragedy is believed to have been among the reasons behind Syriza's defeat in the July parliamentary elections.



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