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A firefighting helicopter makes a water drop as a wildfire is being contained after four days near the village of Kapandriti, north of Athens, Greece August 16, 2017. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

(reuters_tickers)

By Alkis Konstantinidis and Phoebe Fronista

ATHENS (Reuters) - Firefighters on Wednesday contained a wildfire burning for nearly four days near Athens after it destroyed thousands of hectares of pine forest and dozens of homes.

The fire broke out on Sunday in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some 45 km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, and spread quickly to three more towns, stoked by strong and changing winds.

By Wednesday afternoon, the blaze had decreased in intensity and the perimeter contained by firefighters was expanding, Fire Service Spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri said.

Rugged terrain dotted with small communities had made the fire-fighting in the towns near Athens difficult, with winds rekindling the blaze at many spots.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who visited the scene on Wednesday, said Greece had "avoided the worst ... and we have to be alert."

Greece withdrew its request for help from its European partners after conditions in Athens improved, but authorities were on alert for new outbreaks.

Late July and August often see forest and brush fires in Greece, where high temperatures help create dangerous conditions.

Across Greece, firefighters were battling more than 33 forest fires, an outbreak fed by dry winds and hot weather that fanned blazes in the Peloponnese and on the Ionian islands of Zakynthos and Kefalonia.

Wildfires raging on the island of Zakynthos for six days were "improving," Maliri said.

In the Peloponnese region of Ilia - the site of Greece's worst fires in 2007 when more than 70 people died - blazes that broke out in three areas on Monday had been tamed.

"Today and tomorrow, the prevailing (weather) conditions favour the onset and development of forest fires in several regions across Greece," Maliri added.

(Additional reporting and writing by Karolina Tagaris; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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Reuters