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Wildfires force hundreds to flee Greek holiday resort

Greece's fire service was fighting four major fires across the country on Saturday, including one where more than 450 people at an island holiday resort had to be evacuated

4 major fires across the country keep firefighters busy on Saturday

Smoke billows from a wildfire burning near the Greek beach resort of Vatera on Saturday. Hundreds of people were forced to flee the area. (Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP/Getty Images)

Greece's fire service was fighting four major fires across the country on Saturday, including one where more than 450 people at an island holiday resort had to be evacuated.

A fire that broke out Saturday morning on the island of Lesbos prompted authorities to call for the evacuation of the Vatera resort on the island's southern side. The fire came very close to the resort, and at least one house was engulfed by the flames.

But more than five hours after an emergency message was sent by phone to residents, the evacuation was still "ongoing," fire service spokesperson Yannis Artopoios told reporters.

He said 50 firefighters with 17 fire engines, nine special firefighting planes and one helicopter are fighting the blaze.

Scorched sunbeds and umbrellas are seen a a Vatera beach bar on Saturday. (Alexandros Avramidis/Reuters)

Local police said Saturday afternoon they had evacuated more than 450 people from two hotels and 92 houses and that 60 officers were scouring the area for anyone who refused to move.

Greece's biggest fire on Saturday was burning in the northeast near the border with Turkey for the third day running, inside a national forest that is the home to rare species, especially vultures. The Dadia national forest is mostly made up of highly flammable pine trees.

A reported 50 firefighters were involved in trying to bring the Vatera-area fire under control. (Manolis Lagoutaris/AFP/Getty Images)

The fire service said 320 firefighters in 68 fire engines, plus six special planes, nine helicopters and numerous volunteers were fighting the fire, while another 200 lumberjacks were cutting firebreak paths through the forest.

Two more major fires were burning on Saturday, one in a remote mountainous area in the region of Western Macedonia and another in the southeastern Peloponnese region, Artopoios said.

A view of a portion of the Vatera wildfire that forced the evacuation of hundreds of people on Saturday. (Elias Marcou/Reuters)

The European Union gave Greece's forest service 72 million euros — or more than $94 million Cdn — this year to help maintain forests and clear them to prevent fires from spreading.

Greece, unlike other areas in Europe, has so far avoided a heat wave this summer, but temperatures have been rising.

The country's hot, dry summers and strong winds have combined with the longer-term effects of climate change to increase the overall risk of forest fires.

A plane involved in the firefighting effort flies near the site of the Vatera-area wildfire on Saturday. (Elias Marcou/Reuters)

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