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Cyclone warning as Greece battered by gale force winds

Greece is braced for the threat of a cyclone, while forest fires prompted evacuations on an island and an earthquake rattled the south of the country.

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A car drives through seawater from crashing waves during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A car drives through seawater from crashing waves during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A car drives through seawater from crashing waves during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Greece’s civil protection services are on alert as the country braces for the threat of a cyclone, while forest fires prompted evacuations on an island and an earthquake rattled the south of the country.

Gale force winds of up to 100 kilometres per hour (62mph) slammed into Greece from the west, and meteorologists warned about the possibility of a cyclone in the Ionian Sea.

The high winds forced ferries to remain in port on Thursday, severing Greek islands’ connection to the mainland.

The strong winds toppled trees on to power lines in the northern suburbs of Athens, with the fire department saying it received more than 500 calls to remove debris.

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Waves cover the coastal road during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Waves cover the coastal road during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

AP/PA Images

Waves cover the coastal road during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

Authorities in the Saronic municipality near Athens, on the Ionian island of Zakynthos and the Aegean islands of Tinos, Andros and Mykonos ordered schools to remain shut.

Schools in greater Athens will also be closed on Friday.

On the western island of Kefallonia, several villages were evacuated as a wildfire was being fanned by the strong winds.

The island’s emergency services were on alert as weather conditions were expected to worsen.

Meteorologists warned of the high probability that a Mediterranean cyclone known as a medicane – which combines the words Mediterranean and hurricane – could form on Friday in the Ionian Sea south west of the Greek mainland.

Severe weather warnings were issued through until Sunday, with the storm expected to gradually move eastward.

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A man takes a photograph during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

A man takes a photograph during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

AP/PA Images

A man takes a photograph during bad weather at the port of Rafina, east of Athens (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

The Institute of Geodynamics, meanwhile, said an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0 struck off the western coast of southern Greece.

No damage or injuries were immediately reported.

Thursday’s quake had an epicentre beneath the seabed 34 kilometres (21 miles) south west of the town of Pylos, 245 kilometres (152 miles) south west of Athens.

The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre gave the preliminary magnitude as 5.2.

Greece is in a highly seismically active region and earthquakes are frequent.

The vast majority are small and those causing severe damage or loss of life are rare.

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