Greece battles new fires

Greece battles new fires

13 July 2006

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Firefighters are dwarfed by a blaze in Domokos, north west of Athens

Firefighters in Greece are battling to contain more than 100 new forest fires which are being fanned by strong winds and a heatwave across southern Europe.

Residents of three villages in the south-western Peloponnese have been evacuated to safety, and one fire is raging out of control near the ancient town of Corinth – although its famous ruins are not said to be at risk.

The weather has created tinderbox conditions throughout the region – claiming 18 lives in neighbouring Turkey where temperatures have soared as high as 46C.

Meanwhile, a major blaze on the Greek island of Samos has now been confined to one area of high ground, but only after laying waste to about 20% of the island.

And there have also been dozens of new fires in parts of southern Bulgaria,where a state of emergency has been reintroduced.

A chemical factory caught fire in Bulgaria

In recent days, forest fires have also destroyed property and crops in southern France, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Romania.

Dozens of people have died as a direct result of the Mediterranean heatwave.

Special measures in Turkey

In Turkey, the government has declared a two-day holiday for its employees to escape from the heat.

Three villages in western Manisa province were evacuated after firefighters failed to control raging wildfires. Fires are also burning in Canakkale province in the north west.

A train derailment near the western town of Eskisehir was blamed on the trackbuckling in the heat. About 15 people were injured.

This train derailment in Turkey was blamed on the heatwave

Heavy goods vehicles have been banned from some Turkish roads to prevent their tyres ripping the softened asphalt.

Tourists quit Samos

Greece has mobilised hundreds of firefighters to tackle the fires, and tourists have been leaving the east Aegean island of Samos.

The authorities there and in another Greek province, Fthiotida, have declared a state of emergency.

Tourists remaining on Samos were not in immediate danger, but the air was thick with smoke and ash, the firefighters’ emergency centre said.

The Dutch Government chartered special planes to fly its citizens out earlier in the week.

But as many as 1,500 British tourists and some German tourists have chosen to stay.

There have been around 150 forest fires across Greece in the last few days.

The BBC Athens correspondent says the cost has been enormous – but few lives have been lost.

The Greek Government has been accused of doing too little too late. It blames the destruction on exceptional weather and the illegal actions of a few property developers setting fires to clear land.

Helicopters have been dumping sea water over Samos


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