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Prime minister visits Greek island hit by damaging wildfires

Posted September 12

— A forest fire on the island of Thassos in northern Greece burned out of control for a third day Monday, gutting homes and small farms across the popular vacation spot where a state of emergency has been declared.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras arrived by military helicopter as some 250 firefighters and army conscripts fought the flames sweeping across mountainous areas.

A dry thunder storm over the weekend started the blaze along with a separate fire near Mount Athos, home to a historic Orthodox Christian monastic sanctuary, Tsipras said.

"The only fortunate thing was that we were able to quickly concentrate all the available resources on Thassos, because there were no major fires occurring anywhere else," he said.

At least eight homes were destroyed or seriously damaged, along with dozens of farm buildings, officials said. Hundreds of livestock animals died in the smoke and flames.

Schools remained closed on Monday, but officials said the fire posed no immediate threat to coastal resorts. Five firefighters were injured over the weekend while working to suppress the blaze.

Local officials told The Associated Press that an estimated 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) have been blackened by the flames. A drone was expected on the island later Monday to perform a detailed assessment.

"The damage caused is extensive ... The hope is that the fire on all the active fronts will be contained by the end of the day," Tsipras said.

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Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed. Follow Kantouris at http://twitter.com/CostasKantouris

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