High winds carried flames across hillside scrub and pine trees scorched by days of intense heat, forcing hundreds of people to leave seaside resorts, closing highways, and destroying vacation houses.
At least six beachfront communities received evacuation orders from the authorities as two large flames grew closer to tourist destinations and wind gusts reached 70 km/h (45 mph).
Army, police special forces, and volunteer rescuers helped monks leave a burning monastery while also freeing seniors from their houses and saving animals from a barn.
Water-dropping aircraft and helicopters battled the fires before dark in Lagonisi, around 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the capital. The second major blaze started in a wooded region close to the resort town of Loutraki, some 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Athens, where a senior rehabilitation center and a summer camp for kids were evacuated, according to local authorities.
The strong, erratic winds and mountainous terrain where both fires started, according to Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios, were hampering the firefighting effort.
“Since the environment is continuously changing, so must our response. We’ve issued several evacuation orders,” he said. The evacuees collected along the shore or were housed in hotels and schools, while coastguard vessels were sent to beachfronts with a lot of smoke to provide assistance as needed.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Greek prime minister, said it would be “extremely difficult” to deal with the risk posed by wildfires this month while in Brussels.
“Wildfires have always existed and will continue to exist. However, as a result of the effects of the climate problem, fires are becoming more severe, Mitsotakis said, speaking outside of meetings between the presidents of the European Union and Latin American and Caribbean nations.
Following a four-day heatwave that subsided over the weekend, Greater Athens and much of southern Greece were on the second highest level of wildfire warning for Monday and Tuesday. Later in the week, additional heat waves are predicted.