Sporadic forest fires throughout Greece left tens of thousands of people homeless, most of them residents of the northern suburbs of Athens.

The flames have not spared the city’s Jewish community. Speaking from the safety of his downtown center, Rabbi Mendel Hendel, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Greece, said that several members of the Jewish community have been evacuated and have not been told by authorities when they might be able to return.

The rabbi voiced concern for the thousands of others who similarly find themselves in limbo.

“Those who have already been evacuated are staying, for the most part, by family and friends in Athens itself,” said Hendel. “But there are many, many others who have been basically put on notice that they may have to be evacuated. They don’t know for sure and they don’t know when.”

The fires began Sunday morning on Mt. Penteli, and, according to The Associated Press, quickly raged out of control. Flames cascaded down both sides of the mountain, destroying homes and some 58 square miles of forest and agricultural land. Many suburbanites had to flee into the city on foot.

In the evening, Hendel reported, local news stations were reporting that the main blaze was in the process of being contained. But when he discussed the developments with congregants, they told him they were still being told to prepare for an evacuation.

By Monday morning, the firefighting efforts had become international, with Italian, French, Austrian and Greek planes flying together to douse the flames with some 4,000 tons of water. Two children’s hospitals located on the northern side of the city had also been evacuated.

The timing of the fires has created special problems. Families returning from summer vacations in the mountains were asked by officials to stay away for another day or two so as to prevent traffic jams. Most of the population listened, leaving roads largely clear for fire engines and fleeing residents.

Meanwhile, hundreds of international students, many of them from American universities, arrived Sunday and Monday to prepare for the new semester that begins next week. Like others who work with the university population, Hendel has been reaching out to the newly arrived Jewish students to help them deal with the situation.

“For right now, the fires are in the suburbs. They are not in Athens itself and they are not near the universities,” stated the rabbi. “But people are worried, and if what the students need is some reassurance, to know someone is here to help them, that is a part of what we do.”