World News

Exclusion zone set up around Greek military base after wildfires trigger powerful explosions


ATHENS, Greece –

Authorities are maintaining an exclusion zone around an air force base in central Greece where wildfires have triggered powerful explosions at an ammunition depot.

The blasts late Thursday at the 111th Combat Wing base facilities — among the largest in the country — shattered windows in nearby towns and prompted an evacuation of more than 2,000 people, while fighter jets nearby were moved to another base.

A civilian traffic ban and evacuation order remained in effect in a 3-kilometre (2-mile) radius of the blast site.

Fueled by successive heat waves and strong gusts of wind, wildfires have raged around Greece and other Mediterranean countries over the past two weeks, scorching dozens of square kilometres of land outside Athens, on the island of Rhodes and elsewhere.

The ammunition depot blasts were broadcast live on local television reports, near the central city of Volos, one showing a ground-shaking fireball emerging from a mountainous area.

After the evacuations were ordered, residents were rushed onto private boats mobilized by the coast guard and taken to a conference center in Volos, some 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from the weapons depot.

A drop in temperatures and calmer winds assisted firefighters early Friday, and all major fires were contained at midday (0600 EST/1000 GMT), Fire Service officials said.


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