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Greek firefighters winning blaze battle in Kefalonia

Firefighters in Greece have been mobilised once again after new fires – fuelled by strong winds – got underway in the island of Kefalonia on Wednesday night.

According to media reports in Greece, the fire was reported at around 8.30pm but the blaze has since been brought under partial control. Kefalonia is the largest of the Ionian Islands in western Greece.

Firefighters on Wednesday had previously contained a wildfire burning for nearly four days near Athens after it destroyed thousands of hectares of pine forest and dozens of homes.

Across Greece, firefighters have been battling dozens of forest fires, an outbreak fed by dry winds and hot weather that fanned blazes in the Peloponnese and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

On Thursday morning, the emergency services in the area in Kefalonia had evacuated residents and tourists in the communities of Simotata and Lourdata. Firefighters had also been battling another front close to the village of Ratzakli.

The situation has since improved and it is believed that the fires will be brought under complete control by the afternoon.

The previous fire close to Athens had broken out on Sunday in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km northeast of the capital, and spread quickly to three more towns, stoked by strong and changing winds.

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By Wednesday afternoon, the blaze had decreased in intensity and the perimeter contained by firefighters was expanding, Fire Service Spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri said.

Rugged terrain dotted with small communities had made the fire-fighting in the towns near Athens difficult, with winds rekindling the blaze at many spots.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who visited the scene on Wednesday, said Greece had “avoided the worst … and we have to be alert.”

Greece withdrew its request for help from its European partners after conditions in Athens improved, but authorities were on alert for new outbreaks.

Late July and August often see forest and brush fires in Greece, where high temperatures help create dangerous conditions.

In the Peloponnese region of Ilia – the site of Greece’s worst fires in 2007 when more than 70 people died – blazes that broke out in three areas on Monday had been tamed.

“Today and tomorrow, the prevailing (weather) conditions favour the onset and development of forest fires in several regions across Greece,” Maliri added.

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