Greece battles fire that forced hundreds to evacuate on the island of Lesbos

The Greek Fire Service said in a televised briefing on Sunday that 50 firefighters with 17 fire trucks and nine fire planes were working to put out the fire, along with volunteers and tanker trucks provided by local authorities.

The fire, which broke out on Saturday morning, is raging near the coastal municipality of Vatera Island, a popular tourist destination. One of fronts of fire appears to be retreating, officials said Sunday.

More than 450 people have been evacuated to other parts of the island since Saturday, and nine people have been rescued from a beach near Vatera, according to Greek public broadcaster ERT. More than 26 buildings were damaged in the fire.

Greece has been hit hard by wildfires in recent days as Europe endured record-breaking heatwaves that have also sparked fires in France and Italy.

Elsewhere in the country, 320 firefighters with 68 fire engines and six firefighting planes tried to contain a wildfire in Greece’s Dadia National Park that threatens the nests of black vultures – a rare bird species – for the fourth day.

Fire threatens residential areas.

Located in the northeastern border region of Evros, Dadia National Park is part of Natura 2000, the European Union’s network of major breeding and recreation sites for rare and endangered species. Here is the only colony of black vultures in the Balkans.

On Sunday, Greek Minister for Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Christos Stylianides brought a group of officials to Dadia to assess the situation and find ways to avoid an even bigger environmental disaster.

Stylianides said the visit is aimed at coordinating fire containment efforts to “save our national park, a symbol of our natural environment that all of Europe cares about.”

“The whole of Greece is now looking at Dadia and we must do our duty to protect this precious ecosystem,” he added.

Greece is experiencing an extended heatwave with temperatures expected to reach 43 degrees Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) and many parts of the country are on fire danger.