Fires in Greece

Fires in Greece

24 August 2009

Wild bushfires threaten Athens suburbs

Thousands of Greeks are battling to save their homes from forest fires raging out of control on the outskirts of Athens.

Greek authorities have declared a state of emergency as out-of-control bushfires edge closer to the capital.

Around 10,000 residents of Aghios Stefanos, 23 kilometres north-east of Athens, have been evacuated from their homes.

As the wildfires tore through leafy neighbourhoods, coming perilously close to the city’s outlying suburbs, panic-stricken Athenians battled to rescue their homes .

Many could be seen desperately attempting to douse flames with little more than a hose, bucket or olive branch in their hands.

The blazes, fanned by strong winds, cut a swathe of destruction near Athens, burning houses and razing large patches of forest.

“The constant shift in the wind’s direction is rekindling the flames,” said fire brigade spokesman Giannis Kapakis.

“We must all remain calm through this night.”

Authorities said the fire had retreated from Athens suburbs and was burning mainly forest land, but winds remained strong and the danger for a flare-up was constant.

“It will be a difficult night because everyone is exhausted,” said Leonidas Kouris, governor of the eastern Attica region where a state of emergency was declared on Saturday.

“We will keep fighting for another day,” he told Greek TV.

“We are facing a great ordeal,” said Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who took a helicopter tour of the afflicted area.

“The fire department is making a superhuman effort.”

The handling of the fire, the biggest since Greece’s worst wildfires in living memory killed up to 70 people over 10 days in 2007, will be crucial for his political fate.

His government is clinging to a one-seat majority and the socialist opposition, ahead in opinion polls, has made clear it will use a March parliamentary vote, when a new president will be chosen, to force a snap election.

“Nobody has learned anything from the big fires of 2007,” far-right LAOS party leader George Karatzaferis told reporters. “It is a huge disaster and coordination was not the best.”

Italy, France and Cyprus have sent aircraft and other fire fighting equipment to help the under-resourced Greek fire crews.

No casualties have been reported as a result of more than 75 fires burning throughout the north-east of the country.

Some are believed to have been deliberately lit.


A fire-fighting helicopter drops water over a forest fire on Dionysos mountain north of Athens August 23, 2009.
A huge wildfire fanned by strong winds cut a swathe of destruction near Athens on Sunday, burning houses,
razing large patches of forest and sending thousands fleeing their homes, authorities said. Courtesy: Yiorgos Karahalis

The current situation in Greece is covered by a number of detailed reports (see GFMC Media web page):

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