Canada is offering to send trained fire crews and specialized aircraft to Greece to help battle massive fire that have killed at least 63 people since Friday.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Bernier said in a statement Tuesday Canada would respond after Greek authorities appealed to the international community for assistance.
Canada has identified available resources, including air tankers and water bombers, as well as trained fire crews. The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre would oversee the effort.
“Canada is working closely with the government of Greece to identify how we can best help meet the needs they have identified and mitigate any further impact of this devastating situation,” the minister said.
Tony Pantieras, president of the Hellenic Community Council in Ottawa, was pleased to hear of Canada’s commitment.
“We’re very proud to have Canada contribute to the relief effort and rescue effort. At this point things are very serious,” said Pantieras, who is busy contacting family members and Greek-Canadians who are on vacation now in Greece.
“Hopefully everything will be contained in the near future with all this help from not only Canada, but other surrounding countries and other G8 countries,” said Pantieras.
The village of Matesi on the southern Peloponnesian peninsula has been the area worst hit by the blaze. Tuesday, firefighters were struggling to douse as many as 25 fires as strong winds fanned the flames.
Many have criticized Greece’s government this week for its weak response to the fires.
Greece’s conservative government said it would hunt down arsonists it believes are responsible for the fire, offering rewards of up to $1 million. Authorities have already arrested seven people in connection with the fires.
But opposition socialists say Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis is attempting to deflect criticism ahead of the parliamentary election in three weeks.