Fires ease as PM vows to protect forests

Fires ease as PM vows to protect forests

2 July 2007

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Greece — Firefighters were aided by the weather this weekendin their efforts to contain forest fires in northern, central Greece and Atticaas Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis pledged yesterday to stop developersbuilding on any of the burned land.

A deer looks through the charred remains of the national forest on Mount Parnitha. It is thought that more than 100 deer were killed by the fire that swept through the forest last week. President Karolos Papoulias said that the fire on Parnitha and blazes in other parts of Greece were a cause for ‘national mourning.’ “All the forestland that has been burned has automatically been set aside for reforestation,” said Karamanlis during a speech to New Democracy members in Ioannina, northwestern Greece. “Wherever there was forest, there will be forest again. I say it and I mean it.”

He emphasized that efforts would be made to restore the national park on Mount Parnitha in Attica, where more than 2,000 hectares of forest was burned last week.

“The scar left by the fire in Parnitha is also a scar on our soul,” said the prime minister.

The government has been heavily criticized for an apparent lack of organization in combating forest fires over the last few days.

“Mr Karamanlis did not have one word to say about his and his government’s responsibility,” said PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou, who described the large fires on Parnitha and in Pelion as “biblical catastrophes.”

Karamanlis defended his administration by pointing to record temperaturesthat led to an unprecedented 300 fires breaking out in just over a week.

However, there are indications that an initial reluctance to use aircraft todrop water on the Parnitha fire, when it broke out in Dervenohoria, probably ledto the blaze spreading so rapidly.

Authorities attempted to stem the fire by land, fearing that dropping waterfrom the sky would damage electricity pylons in the area and lead to a blackoutin Athens.

Firefighters also claimed that fire protection zones had not been kept clearof deadwood.

Rainfall in northern and central Greece on Saturday helped put out many ofthe 50 fires burning over the weekend, including one in Halkidiki, asfirefighters contained the blazes in Pelion and Parnitha.


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