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Olympia threatened by Greek fires


Greek authorities say seven new fires have started within eight hours around Olympia.


As the devastating fires in the Greek capital Athens are finally brought under control, yet another wildfire is endangering the ancient village of Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula.


The Greek Ministry of Civil Protection on Wednesday afternoon ordered Olympia's residents to leave the village, which is famous for the Olympic flame lighting ceremony held there every four years.


"There have been seven fires in eight hours (around Olympia)," the head of Greece's Civil Protection Ministry, Nikos Chardalias, said on state television after chairing an emergency meeting.


The number of fires has reinforced local suspicions that the blazes could have been started deliberately.


Reporters on the scene have confirmed that the ancient site's own firefighting system has been successfully activated, with a water cannon spraying everything in and around Olympia. 


Culture Minister Lina Mendoni was also on the scene, the civil protection chief further announced.


A total of 161 fires have broken out in Greece over the past 24 hours and the Greek authorities are struggling to cope as a long drought and seasonal winds combine to devastating effect.


Sweden, Cyprus and France have already sent firefighters and firefighting planes to help battle the blazes, the ministry said.  


"We sent all our emergency forces to Olympia to save lives and our ancient traditions," the mayor of the nearby city of Pyrgos told Greek broadcaster Open.


Massive wildfires killed dozens of people in the western Peloponnese in 2007, and the site of Olympia was severely damaged due to its own firefighting system failing.


The hill above the Sacred Grove, known as the "Hill of Kronos," is where the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame takes place a few months before the Summer and Winter Games.


The hill was severely damaged in 2007, causing public outrage at the government's failure to protect the country's ancient heritage.