Greece — The worst forest fire in more than a decade yesterdayravaged some 3,000 hectares of Mount Parnitha, one of the few oases of green inAttica’s concrete jungle, as ash rained down on the capital. Meanwhile fires inother parts of the country, many of which had started on Thursday, continued toburn, some threatening homes.
The worst of the blazes were in Pelion, Schimatari, north of Athens, and Aghia near Larissa. Several blazes also broke out in Halkidiki, ravaged by a huge fire last summer.
Troops joined hundreds of firefighters in efforts to contain the blaze on Parnitha, which started on Thursday afternoon at Dervenohoria, some 15 kilometers away. Several water-dropping planes spearheaded firefighting efforts from the air. Light rainfall yesterday evening made the firefighters’ job easier.
Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras had earlier yesterday called for curbs on water being dumped from the air amid fears that electricity pylons might be hit. His call reportedly provoked the ire of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. But Polydoras claimed the government had «tackled a difficult task with relative success.
Leaders of opposition parties visiting the sites of the blazes condemned the government. PASOK leader George Papandreou slammed authorities for «ineffective planning.» But the sharpest criticism came from environmentalists and local residents.
A firefighting aircraft drops water on the slopes of Mount Parnitha in Attica yesterday after firemen battled an overnight blaze estimated to have destroyed some 3,000 hectares of forestland. Firefighters continued their efforts to extinguish the blaze last night. Opposition parties blamed the government for a lack of organization and action in combating the fire, the biggest seen in Attica for more than a decade. (Photo: Alexandros Beltes/ANA)
Mount Parnitha was crucial for the climate of the city, said DimitrisKaravellas, head of WWF Greece. The effects of this disaster will be felt formonths, he said.
More than 300 fires have broken out in Greece since Wednesday, fuelingspeculation that some were the work of arsonists. Supreme Court prosecutorGiorgos Sanidas yesterday ordered an investigation into what caused the blazesand whether any individuals or officials should be charged.
Fire also ravaged Cyprus’s Troodos mountain range yesterday, threateningholiday homes.