As many as 500 firefighters struggled on Wednesday to contain a large wildfire that threatened hillside suburbs outside Athens for a second day, after hundreds of residents were evacuated overnight.

It is reported that at least two people were hospitalised with breathing problems and minor burns, while local officials said several houses had been burned in the fire around Mount Penteli, 25 kilometres (16 miles) northeast of the Greek capital.

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“The conditions are very challenging. The priority was to safeguard human life, critical infrastructure and private property,” Fire Service spokesman Yiannis Artopios said.

He said winds of up to 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) were making air support difficult for fire crews.

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Greece has avoided the heat wave that is currently afflicting countries in Western Europe, but fire officials say that hot and dry conditions that have lasted for weeks, as well as longer-term temperature rises, have increased the overall risk of forest fires.

Five water-dropping aircraft and four helicopters were operating Wednesday at the fire north of Athens, officials said, adding that more than 600 people have evacuated from their homes so far.

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More than 1,300 square kilometres (500 square miles) of land was damaged by wildfires in Greece last year, the worst damage recorded since 2007.