Fires Devour Forests, Homes in SE Europe Heatwave

FiresDevour Forests, Homes in SE Europe Heatwave

27 July 2007

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Southeast Europe — Hundreds of firefighters and soldiers on Thursday foughtover 200 blazes across Greece that have killed two people and burnt down dozensof homes as southeast Europe scorches in a week-old heatwave.

In Bulgaria, authorities asked NATO, the European Union and Russia to sendwater-carrying aircraft to fight hundreds of wildfires, officials said.

The death toll from southeast Europe’s heatwave has been mounting and up to500 people were estimated on Tuesday to have died in Hungary the previous weekpartly due to the heat.

Along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, the threat to tourist camps and villagesreceded as firefighters who have battled blazes for days brought a dozenremaining fires mostly under control.

While temperatures dropped somewhat across the region, strong winds fannedGreece’s fires, the deadliest of which spread across the northern coastline ofthe Peloponnese for a fourth day.

The fire near the coastal towns of Egio and Akrata killed one man late onWednesday and a woman died early on Thursday after being trapped in her home.

The fire brigade said local residents were searching for another woman,missing since Wednesday, but there were no further details on her condition.

The fire in Greece that started on Monday has ripped through villagestorching dozens of houses while more villages are under threat, the fire brigadesaid, adding several planes and helicopters were battling the blaze.

The area is a popular holiday destination for Greeks, who own holiday homesalong the coast.

“This is a fire with a front as long as 30-35 kilometres. It is huge,”Egio Deputy Mayor Panagiotis Gousas told reporters. “There are several firefronts and more houses are in danger.”

Regional civil protection chief Yannis Poupis told Greek TV helicopters couldnot operate over parts of the blaze due to thick black smoke obstructingvisibility.

Authorities have closed off the main highway connecting Athens with the portcity of Patras on the Peloponnese.


The fire brigade said there were fires all over Greece, from the northerncity of Thessaloniki to the southern Peloponnese.

Its resources have been stretched to the limit and army conscripts have beencalled in to help. One firefighting plane crashed on Monday while battling ablaze, killing its two-member crew, and authorities said it was probably due tofatigue.

Temperatures over 40 degrees baked the country for six consecutive daysbefore Thursday’s drop in temperatures to about 38 degrees.

Greece experienced another long heatwave in late June that killed at least 10people and sent 250 others to hospital with heatstroke.

In Bulgaria, fires have ravaged more than 12,000 hectares (30,000 acres) offorest since last week. Thousands of firefighters and soldiers have beenbattling blazes that have claimed at least two lives, officials said.

The European Union newcomer has asked its Western allies to send helicoptersto help it fight fires in mountains.

“We are calling for help, because the situation is extremely difficult… and with the wind picking up, it is indeed very serious,” disastersministry spokeswoman Elena Yaneva said.

Sofia also wants to borrow again a Russian water-carrying aircraft whichhelped put out fires in southern Bulgaria earlier this week, but flew toneighbouring Serbia on Wednesday.

Fires continued to rage in virtually every municipality in the Black Seacountry despite a 10 degree drop in temperatures from 40-plus Celsius earlierthis week.

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