Wildfires burning through woodland on hills around Athens are sending clouds of smoke billowing over the Greek capital. More than 18 fire engines and three aircraft have been battling the flames, which have caused many residents to flee their homes.

The large brush fire is burning across Ymittos hill on the capital's outskirts. Strong winds are helping the flames devour parts of the mountainside popular with day-trippers.

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Andreas Solaro/AFP
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A firefighting helicopter drops water on to a forest fire east of AthensYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A resident sprays water on burning embers in an Athens neighbourhoodYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A Greek Orthodox priest covers his nose and mouth as he walks away from a forest fire close to Saint George church in an Athens neighbourhoodYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A member of the military kicks a wooden structure on fire at a children's playgroundYannis Behrakis/Reuters
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A woman looks at smoke billowing over AthensAndreas Solaro/AFP
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Acropolis Now: Tourists stand near the Parthenon temple as smoke from a raging wildfire billows over AthensAlkis Konstantinidis/Reuters
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Aris Messinis/AFP
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Aris Messinis/AFP
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Aris Messinis/AFP
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Aris Messinis/AFP
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Aris Messinis/AFP

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras called for calm and said he had asked the air force and armed forces for help, and had also appealed to other European countries for assistance with extra fire-fighting aircraft.

At least four other wildfires broke out across the country, including one in the southern Peloponnese region, where flames forced the evacuation of at least three villages and two summer camps.

Strong winds fanned the forest fire in the Lakonia area, on the tip of the Peloponnese. A coast guard vessel and other boats were attempting to evacuate scores of people trapped on a beach by the fire, but those rescue efforts were being hampered by gale-force winds and rough seas.

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A cloud of dark smoke billows over the village of Neapoli in the region of Laconia in the Peloponnese, southern GreeceVassilis Konstantopoulos/Reuters
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Residents of the village of Neapoli try to extinguish a wildfire(Panagiotis Kouros/Eurokinissi/
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A fire burns on the hillside above the village of Neapoli in the region of Laconia in PeloponneseVassilis Konstantopoulos/Reuters
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Residents flee as a wildfire rages near the village of Neapoli in the PeloponneseVassilis Konstantopoulos/Reuters

Forest and brush fires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers. In 2007, massive forest fires ravaged southern Greece, devastating dozens of villages and killing about 60 people.