By Alexandros Avramidis
ALEXANDROUPOLIS, Greece (Reuters) -Dozens of hospital patients were evacuated on to a ferry in the Greek port city of Alexandroupolis on Tuesday as wildfires raged uncontrolled for a fourth day, the fire brigade said,
Hundreds of firefighters have been struggling to contain the blaze that broke out near Alexandroupolis on Saturday and quickly spread, fanned by gale force winds, sending plumes of smoke above the city and turning the night sky bright red. One person has been killed.
Authorities said 65 patients at the University Hospital of Alexandroupolis had been evacuated by early Tuesday as a precaution onto a ferry in the port. Fourteen more people were evacuated by a coast guard vessel from a beach near the village of Makri.
Overnight, as flames approached the premises of the Alexandroupolis Metropolita Church Foundation, staff carried a man on a wheelchair to an ambulance, while others were evacuated on stretchers.
The ferry turned into a makeshift hospital. Elderly patients lay on mattesses strewn across the cafeteria floor, paramedics attended to others on stretches and a woman held a man resting on a sofa, an IV drip attached to his hand.
"Under extreme weather conditions, mainly due to gale-force winds, a huge effort has been made to manage fire fronts that broke out simultaneously in many parts of the country," fire brigade spokesperson Ioannis Artopios said late on Monday.
"The hours we are going through are extremely critical."
Several communities in the broader Evros region, near the border with Turkey, have been evacuated as authorities warned the risk of new fires remained high in the coming days.
"It has reached the entire village," said Alexandros Chrisoulidis, a 19-year-old resident of Avanta village. "Our own house up there, where the fire started, has completely burned down. There is nothing," he said.
A 23-year-old resident who gave his name as Nikos, said: "The situation is tragic. All that is needed right now are prayers and rain."
The burned body of a man believed to be a migrant was found in a rural area in Lefkimi, near Alexandroupolis, on Monday, a local police official told Reuters.
Evros is a popular border crossing for hundreds of migrants from the Middle East and Asia who use the river by the same name separating Greece from Turkey to cross into the European Union.
Summer wildfires in Greece are common but have been made worse in recent years by unusually hot, dry and windy conditions that scientists have linked to climate change.
More than 20,000 foreign tourists had to be evacuated from the holiday island of Rhodes in July as wildfires burned for a week, destroying hotels and resorts.
In Greece's northern seaside city of Kavala, two firefighters were hurt on Monday while trying to contain a blaze threatening homes in the village of Dialekto, the fire brigade said.
Fires were also burning on the island of Evia near Athens, as well as on the island of Kythnos and in Viotia in central Greece.
(Additional reporting and writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Angus MacSwan)