Forests destroyed by wildfires in Greece to be replanted

Forests destroyed by wildfires in Greece tobe replanted

2 July 2007

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Greece — Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis ordered thatthousands of hectares of forestland destroyed by wildfires across Greece wouldbe replanted.

Since Wednesday, fires have destroyed more than 6,000hectares (15,000 acres) of forests left tinder-dry by a weeklong heat wave thatreached the mid-40s degrees Celsius (up to 114 Fahrenheit).

Two people died in one fire, while 12 heatstroke deaths wererecorded.

A volunteer firefighter collapsed and died while trying toextinguish a small brush fire outside a factory in the northern Athens suburb ofHalandri on Sunday. Fire officials said the 26-year-old man fainted, apparentlyafter inhaling smoke, and died on the way to hospital.

Arsonists seeking to clear prime land for development aresuspected of causing some of the blazes.

“I stress most emphatically that all burnt forests areautomatically scheduled for reforestation,” Karamanlis said. “Whereverforests stood, there will be forests once again.”

Temperatures were mostly under 30 Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) onSunday.

About 150 firefighters, assisted by 300 army conscripts andwater-dropping aircraft, fought Sunday to extinguish a large blaze that hasdestroyed at least 2,500 hectares (6,200 acres) of pine and fir in the MountParnitha national park, on the northwestern fringes of Athens, over the pastfour days.

Fire officials said the blaze had been contained to threemain spots in the 26,000-hectare (64,000-acre) park that hosts more than 1,000wildlife species, including a protected species of deer.

“The scar left behind by the fire on MountParnitha is a scar on our soul,” Karamanlis said. “We must allwork to make the forest as it was before.”

President Karolos Papoulias said the Parnitha blaze cost thegreater Athens region its only remaining major green area – “in otherwords, its hope.”

Authorities said an incendiary device was found on MountParnitha. On the southern island of Poros, police on Saturday arrested a20-year-old man suspected of lighting fires in the area.

Firefighters managed Sunday to partially contain fires onMount Pelion in central Greece, Halkidiki in the north and on the Aegean Seaisland of Lesvos, while three more blazes was burning in Crete and southernGreece.


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