Croatia wildfire toll reaches 11

Croatia wildfire toll reaches 11

6 September 2007

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Croatia — A wildfire that devastated two-thirds of an island on Croatia’s coast a week ago has claimed two more lives, bringing the death toll to 11.

The blaze, which broke out on Kornat island, killed six firemen on Thursday last week when a sudden change of wind direction trapped them in the flames.

Five more firemen have now since died in hospital.

Police have detained a national park receptionist on suspicion of causing the blaze with a discarded cigarette.

The wildfire is the worst incident of its kind in the country, wreaking havoc on Kornat island, 30km (20 miles) south of Zadar.

Kornat is the largest of a group of islands that makes up a national park in the southern part of the Kornati archipelago.

Another two firemen remain in hospital in critical condition.

Fire chief

Police said they had also detained a firefighting official.

“The detainee is suspected of committing a serious crime against security as he endangered people’s lives and property,” police spokesman Krunoslav Borovec told the AFP news agency.

According to AFP, a police source said the detainee was the commander of the firefighting service in central Sibenik county who ordered a group of 23 firemen to be sent to Kornat.

Since June, around 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres) of land have been devastated by some 900 fires, mainly along Croatia’s coastline, according to authorities.

The fires were mainly the result of hot and dry weather.

The interior ministry says that so far police have pressed charges against about 30 people suspected of starting the fires.

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