ATHENS – House and car shells burned out by flames. Forests reduced to ashes. Tourists evacuated by boat from once idyllic beaches where the sky is full of smoke. While southern Europe is grappling with one of the worst heat waves in decades, deadly forest fires have struck parts of the region, stalling a newly opened tourism industry and enforcing mass evacuations.

The raging fires drove residents in villages across mainland Greece and the islands, as well as neighboring Turkey, out of their homes, forcing tourists to abandon beach destinations across the region.

Fires tormented the southern coast of Turkey for a ninth day on Thursday, forcing thousands of people to evacuate overnight by land and sea. A video broadcast on Turkish television showed uncontrollable flames that suddenly changed direction in strong winds and trapped people.

Critics have attacked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the government’s handling of the deadly disaster.

Hundreds of square kilometers of forest burned when more than 180 fires blazed across the country. At least eight people died, hundreds were injured and dozen lost their homes.

In Mugla, a Turkish province full of farmland popular with tourists, residents angry about the uncontrolled fires blocked roads and stopped cars they believed were suspicious.

“Maybe they burned the forest,” shouted Muharrem Duygu, a Mugla resident who stopped a car in a video posted on Twitter. “My forest is on fire right now.”

Firefighters were able to control a fire approaching a power plant in Milas after working the night to rescue the facility. Trees on the power plant site were burned, but the main site was not seriously damaged, officials said.

In ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games in southern Greece, local authorities and army personnel dug fire lines around the archaeological site to keep the flames at bay while firefighters fought the flames through the night.

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After visiting the site on Thursday, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said the country was facing “an unprecedented environmental crisis”.

“Unfortunately, despite the fact that we have more air support per capita than any other country, it is impossible for these aircraft to be available across the country at any one time,” he said. He added that he fully understood “the anger, anger and despair of people who saw their property destroyed”.

The Greek government stepped up its military engagement in fighting the fires on Thursday as dozens of flames continued to burn across the country, fueled by a record-breaking heat wave that struck the region.

A major fire that broke out north of Athens on Tuesday destroyed dozen of houses and thousands of acres of forest. It had been partially contained but flared up again later that day.

Tourists visiting the capital were faced with a thick curtain of smoke that hung over the city’s iconic landmarks. A short distance north, the residents were driven from their homes. Some tried unsuccessfully to use hoses to prevent the flames from engulfing their property when a fire flared up again north of Athens on Thursday afternoon and spread quickly, leading to further evacuations – including in Malakasa, a state camp the asylum seeker would be evacuated to other facilities on the instructions of the civil protection authorities, according to the Greek Ministry of Migration.

On Thursday, Vasilis Vathrakoyiannis, a fire department spokesman, said 120 fires were burning across the country, the largest and most worrying being in ancient Olympia and the island of Evia.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Greek coast guard evacuated dozens of people from the island’s coastal village of Rovies after a huge fire hit a nearby pine forest. Residents of several villages on the island were forced to leave their homes and local authorities and the army dug fire lines to protect a monastery. The local church in the village of Kechries rang its bells early Thursday morning to tell residents to flee.

In photos of the island, the sun was barely visible through the thick smoke that hung over the houses on the cliffs.

Greek TV channels switched between video recordings of the fires in northern Athens, Euboea and the Peloponnese peninsula, bringing back memories of the summer of 2007 when Greece fought several major fires across the country, killing large numbers of people.

While scientists have not yet had time to assess the relationship between the current wave of extreme temperatures and global warming, this fits in with a general trend that has seen climate change in extreme weather conditions in Europe. Research has shown that climate change has been a major worsening factor in major heat waves across Europe in recent summers.

Efthymis Lekkas, professor of natural disaster management at the University of Athens, warned of “an ongoing nightmare in August” and urged the authorities to be prepared for possible flooding after large areas of forest have been destroyed.

Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection warned on Friday of an “extreme” fire hazard as strong winds are expected to make the situation worse.

Niki Kitsantonis reported from Athens and Megan Specia from New York.