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Residents flee homes as Athens forest fire rages out of control

A motorcyclist looks at smoldering shrubbery on a road near Kineta, west of Athens, on Monday. Residents were fleeing their homes as a swift-moving fire blazed through a mountainous pine forest west of Athens and churned out smoke that turned the sky orange over the Greek capital PICTURE: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP
Elena Becatoros

TWO major forest fires are raging out of control on either side of the Greek capital, burning up to 100 houses and prompting residents to flee.

The first fire broke out in a pine forest near the seaside settlement of Kineta, 30 miles west of Athens.

At least 150 firefighters were on the scene while five water-dropping planes and seven helicopters helped to fight the blaze from the air. Reinforcements were sent from across Greece.

The second major fire broke out yesterday afternoon in the Penteli area north east of Athens.

Local authorities said they were evacuating children's summer camps, while dozens of homes and cars were reportedly destroyed.

At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with at least 50 firefighters, the fire department said.

The coast guard was sending at least one patrol boat to rescue people who called to say the fire had trapped them on a beach.

The fire was burning into Rafina, with the sky above the nearby port that serves ferries to some of the Cycladic islands, turning black from the smoke. The highway to the nearby town of Marathon was closed to traffic.

Rafina Mayor Vangelis Bournous said he believed about 100 houses in the area had been burned.

Gale force winds with strong, shifty gusts were hampering firefighting efforts at both blazes.

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