Tourists flee Greek forest fire

Tourists flee Greek forest fire

22 August 2006

published by news.bbc.co.uk


Several thousand tourists and local residents have been forced to flee a hugeforest fire in northern Greece.

The fire burned out of control on the Kassandra peninsula, threatening theresorts of Polychrono and Hanioti.


The blaze spread rapidly across the Kassandra peninsula

At least 1,000 British tourists were among those affected, as mass evacuations took place. Many spent the night on beaches.

Fishing boats and coastguard vessels took 600 people off beaches to safety, but one German tourist died.

The Greek coastguard confirmed the death. The tourist apparently drowned while trying to reach one of the boats involved in the evacuation.

Since first light 10 firefighting planes and three helicopters have been airborne, making continuous sorties to pick up water in the Gulf of Kassandra.

According to a UK Foreign Office spokesman, the fire is now “beingbrought under control and people are being allowed back into the area”.

There are no reports of any British casualties, he said.

Some 2,000 British tourists are estimated to be among the holidaymakers in the region.

Lyndsey Jones, an eyewitness stranded in her hotel, said she was lucky it had not been burnt down.

“This morning when we got up there was ash everywhere, it’s just a big cloud of ash,” she told the BBC.

“It’s amazing how close it got to the hotel, it’s just round the borders, literally round the borders of the hotel and the parasols round the pool they’re all burned, so it’s really lucky the hotel didn’t go up.”

Another British holidaymaker at a Halkidiki resort, Jo Leaney, said the fire had raced down from nearby hills and forced her out of her apartment.

The fire comes at the hottest time of year and during a prolonged dry spell.

The BBC’s Malcolm Brabant in Athens says the temperature on Monday was about42C (107F) and the flames were fanned by a seasonal northern wind called theMeltemi.

Destruction

Three fingers of land jut out from the Halkidiki peninsula, with thewesternmost, Kassandra, affected by the fire.

Ms Leaney told the BBC she had been in her apartment with others when shespotted the flames in the hills.


Holidaymaker Lyndsey Jones sent this picture from Hanioti

The rooms “suddenly filled with smoke” and they fled to the beach “with only the belongings we had on us”, along with other tourists and local residents.

Homes, hotels and campsites were evacuated.

At least 20 homes have been destroyed and many of the hotels in the region have lost electricity.

Holidaymaker Craig Shakespeare spotted the flames on hills he estimated were several miles away from his hotel balcony.

“I hoped the fire was contained, but literally within five minutes trees 300 yards (275m) from us were on fire,” he told the BBC.

“The wind was blowing, and the flames were going everywhere.” Hesaid he was “dodging hot ash” as he fled to the nearby beach.


 

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