Greece battles fire that forced hundreds to evacuate on island of Lesbos

Smoke billows near the coastal resort of Vatera on Lesbos.

(CNN)Hundreds of residents and tourists have been evacuated on the Greek island of Lesbos after a wildfire broke out, burning houses and threatening villages.

Fifty firefighters with 17 firetrucks and nine firefighting aircraft were working to extinguish the fire alongside volunteers and water tankers provided by the local government, the Greek Fire Service said in a televised briefing on Sunday.
The fire, which broke out on Saturday morning, has been raging near the island's coastal municipality of Vatera, a popular destination for tourists. One of the fronts of the fire appeared to be receding, officials said Sunday.
    According to Greek public broadcaster ERT, more than 450 people have been evacuated since Saturday to other parts of the island and nine people were rescued off a beach near Vatera. More than 26 buildings have been damaged by the fire.
      Greece has been badly hit by wildfires in recent days, as Europe endured a record-breaking heat wave that also caused blazes in France and Italy.
      Elsewhere in the country, 320 firefighters with 68 firetrucks and six firefighting aircraft tried to contain a wildfire in Greece's Dadia National Park threatening nests of black vultures -- a rare species of birds -- for a fourth day.
      The fire has threatened residential areas.
      Located in the northeastern border region of Evros, Dadia National Park belongs to Natura 2000, the European Union's network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species. It is home to the only black vulture colony in the Balkans.
        On Sunday, Greece's Minister for Climate Crisis and Civil Protection Christos Stylianides led a group of officials to Dadia to assess the situation and find ways to avoid an even greater ecological disaster.
        Stylianides said the visit aimed at coordinating efforts to contain the fire in order to "save our national park -- a symbol of our natural environment for which all of Europe cares about."
          "All of Greece has its eyes on Dadia right now and we must fulfill our duty to protect this precious ecosystem," he added.
          Greece is experiencing a prolonged heatwave with temperatures expected to reach 43 Celsius (109 degrees Fahrenheit) and many parts of the country are under fire alert.