ATHENS — Wildfires that have scorched Greece for more than two weeks were on Saturday mostly under control, but firefighters remained in key hotspots with strong winds still a threat, officials said.
“Scattered fire pockets are being extinguished,” the fire department said in an update to AFP, adding that there was “no active front” in the three biggest wildfires in Rhodes, Corfu and central Greece that had forced thousands of people to flee.
Nevertheless, more than 460 firefighters were still deployed in these three areas as a precaution, it said.
“There is no de-escalation of forces until the major incidents are checked,” it said.
Fed by scorching temperatures, dry conditions and strong winds, the two-week inferno had sparked chaos at the peak of the busy summer tourist season in Greece.
Some 20,000 visitors and locals fled from hotels and villages on the island of Rhodes. Hundreds more were evacuated in Corfu and other areas.
The fires killed at least five people and scorched nearly 50,000 hectares (123,500 acres) of forest and vegetation, according to estimates by the Athens Observatory.
Two pilots died on Tuesday when their water-bombing plane crashed while battling a blaze in Evia, while three more scorched bodies were recovered in fires in Evia and near the industrial zone of the port city of Volos in central Greece.
The blazes have also put political pressure on the conservative government of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, which was re-elected just a month ago.
The citizen’s protection minister resigned his post Friday after it emerged that he had taken a vacation as the country battled the wildfires.
For more than 10 days this month, Greece sweltered under what some experts say is the longest heatwave recorded in July for decades.
Temperatures, which reached 46 degrees Celsius (114 degrees Fahrenheit) this week, have begun to fall.
National weather forecaster EMY predicted the mercury would not climb above 37°C on Saturday, but said wind gusts could reach 60 kilometers (37 miles) per hour.
Fires have also flared in Croatia, Italy and Portugal this week, and blazes killed 34 in Algeria in extreme heat that has left landscapes tinder dry.