Nightmare: Greece continues to battle major fires in suburban Athens

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Greek firefighters were in a race to subdue a major fire in the northern suburbs of Athens on Wednesday, before gusts that could fan them return.

“It is a nightmare fire on the outskirts of the city,’’ said Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis after a tour around the affected area.

The top priority, he said, was to save lives.

Since the first morning light, helicopters and planes have been deployed to contain the fires.

The winds had died down for the time being.

“We hope to bring the fire under control today before winds start again,’’ a fire service officer told state television.

Information on casualties was not available early on Wednesday.

Several places had been evacuated the previous day, and due to the heavy smoke and no wind, visibility was limited to a few hundred meters in Athens in the morning.

An acrid smell also troubled the residents, while ashes were falling on houses.

“Stay indoors. All windows must be closed,’’ the civil defence agency urged residents.

Extreme temperatures around 43 to 44 degrees Celsius were again expected in Athens on Wednesday, and the sweltering heat would continue until the weekend, the meteorological office said.

Fires also broke out on the island of Euboea, on the Peloponnese Peninsula and on the islands of Kos and Rhodes, popular among holidaymakers.

A total of 40 fires were raging across the country late on Tuesday, a civil defence spokesperson said.

Hundreds of houses were burnt or damaged, according to a first estimate.