Balkan Forests Crackle in the Baking Heat

Balkan Forests Crackle in the Baking Heat

26 July 2007

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BELGRADE – A heatwave that has roasted much of the Balkans for a week abated in the north on Wednesday but sizzled on in Greece and left scores of wildfires throughout the region.

An Ilyushin water bomber aircraft borrowed from Russia was doing its best to put out forest fires in Serbia, while Albania waited for whatever help it could get.

“We are waiting for answers to our requests for additional equipment, but unfortunately our neighbours are busy fighting their fires and they also need more equipment,” said Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

While Romania registered a welcome drop in temperatures, there was no respite for Greece, which suffered in 45 degrees Celsius heat (113 Fahrenheit). An elderly woman died from heatstroke, the second Greek victim in two days.

In Romania, three more heat-related deaths pushed the toll to 33 as temperatures reached an all-time high of 44.2 Celsius on Tuesday, Health Minister Eugen Nicolaescu said.

Nicolaescu said the week-long heat was now abating.

Temperatures in Serbia dropped 10 degrees from the 40-plus of the past week but, as with its neighbours, forest fires and power-cuts kept the emergency services busy.

“All of our 618 foresters have been in the field day and night for the last six days, and another 2,500 employees are on standby. The response of the local population was, in spite of all appeals, very poor,” said Jesa Ercic of the Serbian forest service, coping with over 100 fires.


In Greece’s Peloponnese region, fire was closing in on several villages, the fire brigade said. Fire forced closure of the road border between Croatia and Montenegro and in Albania to the south fires raged for a second day in three national parks.

Fires broke out in Bosnia near its mountain border with Croatia overlooking the Adriatic. The towns of Stolac and Trebinje declared emergencies. Fire-fighters had a narrow escape when landmines left over from the 1992-95 war exploded as they tackled a blaze near the eastern town of Visegrad.

“Power outages in Montenegro, Kosovo and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia influenced operation of the electricity utility and three power units went down on Tuesday,” said Greek Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas.

“I am asking you to avoid using electrical appliances during peak hours for one more day,” he added.

In Serbia, 10,000 chickens died in battery farms with inadequate cooling systems, farmers association chief Rade Skoric said. Bosnia reported significant damage to maize and vegetable crops and forecast a 50 percent drop in output.

In Hungary, winegrowers said the dry winter and early summer were playing havoc with their crop and the harvest would have to come in early. But brewers were enjoying healthy sales of beer. In Montenegro, the region’s youngest indepedent republic, on the Adriatic coast, police said fires were under control and posed no danger to inhabitants or tourists.

“It was dramatic yesterday due to a shortage of water and the remote area. The army and crop-dusting fleet helped us,” said official Zlatko Cirovic in the resort of Herceg Novi. (Additional reporting from Bucharest, Athens, Belgrade, Tirana, Budapest, Sarajevo)

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