Greece wildfire 'worst on European soil in years', Copernicus says

ATHENS (Reuters) - Blazes in Greece burned for a seventh day on Friday, destroying tens of thousands of hectares of land in the northeast alone, in what the EU-backed Copernicus Climate Change Service said was the largest recorded wildfire on European soil in years.

"Greece is going through the most difficult year, in terms of climatic conditions, in the history of recording and collecting meteorological data," government spokesperson Pavlos Marinakis told a regular briefing.

Fire crews were battling 517 wildfires that had broken out across Greece since last Friday, he said, fuelled by high temperatures and in some cases gale force winds.

While summer wildfires are common in Greece, the government says conditions, which scientists link to climate change have made them more intense this year.

"It is the combination of high temperatures, drought and winds that unfortunately create the ideal conditions for wildfires with extreme behaviour," Marinakis said.

"It is a very difficult summer."

In a post on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, Copernicus said the wildfire in northeastern Greece that began on Saturday near the city of Alexandroupolis in northeastern Greece was "the largest recorded on European soil in years," burning a total of 72,344 hectares so far.

The fire was still burning on Friday.

Hundreds of people have had to flee their homes to escape the fires, and hospital patients were briefly evacuated onto a ferry earlier this week.

Police have arrested three people so far on suspicion of arson.

Authorities announced on Friday that a charred body believed to be a migrant was found in a forested area in the northeastern Evros region, bringing the total number of those killed in the latest fire outbreak of the summer to 21.

All but one are presumed to be migrants, and 18 of those were found together, burned beyond recognition, near the village of Avantas on Tuesday.

A wildfire that broke out on Tuesday outside Athens had abated by Friday, after destroying homes and a car in the area and forcing people to flee, often on foot.

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Lefteris Papadimas; Editing by Sharon Singleton)