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Wildfires threaten Greece's UNESCO World Heritage monastery

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-08-24 09:26

ATHENS -- A wildfire in the Viotia region of Greece, about 100 kilometers northwest of Athens, caused damages to a UNESCO World Heritage site on Wednesday, the Greek national news agency AMNA reported.

The 10th-century Hosios Loukas monastery is listed among the country's most important monuments of Byzantine-era architecture. One of the oldest buildings at the complex has been damaged, according to AMNA.

Meanwhile, the wildfires raging around Greece's capital spread to the Mount Parnitha National Park, northwest of Athens, on Wednesday, the Fire Brigade said.

The blaze that broke out on Tuesday at the mountain's foot has already damaged homes and scorched forested land. Nearby settlements and a migrant camp were evacuated as a precautionary measure.

The situation on Mount Parnitha was critical, Greece's Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias told journalists here.

The Fire Brigade was called in to combat 355 forest fires across the country between Friday and Tuesday, he said.

Over 40,000 hectares of forested zones and farmland were destroyed in wildfires between Saturday and Monday, according to estimates published by the National Observatory of Athens based on satellite data.

Meanwhile, a Supreme Court prosecutor has ordered an investigation into the cause of the wildfires near the city of Alexandroupolis in the north that have been burning for the fifth day now, the Fire Brigade said.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, five individuals were arrested in the country on suspicion of causing fires either by neglect or intentionally, according to the Fire Brigade.

In a forest near Alexandroupolis, the authorities on Tuesday recovered the charred bodies of 18 people, including two minors, who had lost their lives in the flames. Local authorities said they believed the victims may be migrants, who had entered the country illegally.

"We mourn for their loss, for the irreparable losses suffered by our fellow citizens, and for the destruction of nature, and we are grieving over our inability to prevent it," Greece's President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said in an e-mailed statement.

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