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Firefighters battle blaze outside Greek capital

 Image Hundreds of firefighters and troops yesterday battled a forest fire on a mountain overlooking Athens, but lighter winds during the night had eased their task and homes were no longer threatened, authorities said. "It is better, the wind has dropped, we are more optimistic than yesterday," a fire department spokeswoman said.
However, she said flames returned Friday morning at one site west of Mount Parnita, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) north of the Greek capital.
"We have successfully handled a difficult task," Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said following an emergency cabinet called by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. But "the fight continues," he added.

Authorities deployed more than 100 firefighters, some 300 soldiers, four water-dropping planes, two helicopters and around 40 fire engines in a bid to douse the flames on Mount Parnitha.
"My area was spared, but unfortunately the forest is no longer there," the mayor of the village of Thramakedones, considered the most at risk from the blaze, told Flash radio.
The village Friday remained covered in a thick grey cloud that blocked the sun, amid a strong smell of burning wood.
A military radar station, a casino and summer camps on Mount Parnitha were evacuated on Thursday. But the fire department spokeswoman said homes in the area were no longer threatened Friday.
Visible from the capital, the fire began late Thursday on a ridge several kilometres (miles) long and threatened a national park which extends about 30 kilometres (20 miles) northwest of the Athens.
The park is one of the few green areas around the heavily polluted Greek capital. It had suffered fires in 2004 and 2002.
Elsewhere, more than 500 firefighters were battling a blaze raging since Wednesday in Pilion, a wooded and tourist region in the northwest of the country.
In total, fires have been reported from more than 100 sites across the country since Wednesday morning, although most were extinguished, the fire service said.
The fires broke out after a nine-day heatwave described by authorities as the longest ever recorded in the country, and were fanned by strong winds.
Nine people died from heatstroke, and the charred bodies of two men were found Thursday in the central region of Agia Larissas where they became trapped by a blaze.

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