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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-06-29

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM Karamanlis chairs emergency dawn meeting on forest fires
  • [02] Papandreou hastens return to Athens

  • [01] PM Karamanlis chairs emergency dawn meeting on forest fires

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis chaired an emergency early morning meeting on Friday as six major forest fires continued to rage across the country, including a massive fire front on Mt. Parnitha in Athens, causing widespread devastation to the densely forested slope.

    The 6:30 a.m. meeting, which lasted for more than two hours at the government headquarters at Maximos Mansion, reviewed the situation and the available airborne firefighting means for optimum distribution of the airborne and land forces.

    Public order minister Vyron Polydoras told reporters after the meeting that Karamanlis called the meeting for early morning so that the availability of the firefighting means, especially the airborne units, as well as the overall situation, could be examined.

    "It was a difficult time, and we waged difficult battles, with success," Polydoras said, adding that most of the fire fronts were receding, although the blaze on the western side of Parnitha at the Dervenochoria, where the fire had begun, had rekindled.

    According to firefighters, six firefighting planes, two helicopters, 130 firefighters with 51 fire engines, 70 land teams and 300 conscripts were tackling the Parnitha blaze.

    Polydoras said a strong confrontation of the fires was taking place with airborne and land forces, noting that the continuing fire at Pelio was a cause of worry, and airborne means have also been dispatched there.

    Also, the fire at Melivia, in Larissa, appeared to be receding, Polydoras said, adding that the firefighting forces were particularly vigilant to prevent it from heading towards Kissavos.

    Polydoras stressed the great difficulty posed by the fact that a large number of fires were blazing away simultaneously, coupled by several rekindlings, and thanked the firefighters and volunteers for their contribution to the effort.

    He further said he was concerned by the "suspicious, dangerously large number of fires" that broke out Thursday afternoon "in the critical period between 3:00 and 6:00", noting that there had been good cooperation among the relevant ministries and agencies, but also good preparation, stressing that "the battle continues, and we're not yet over the hurdle".

    Polydoras also noted the intensity of the wind, which were a cause of worry for the firefighting effort over the next few days.

    Replying to a press question, Polydoras said that there had been reservations on dropping water near the Public Power Corporation (DEH) pulons at the Dervenochoria, and explained that the fire had spread due to winds blowing in the area and the thick folliage.

    He said that the unprecedented high temperatures throughout the country were also partly responsible for the intensity of the blazes, adding that the strategic deployment of the firefighting forces had prevented the Parnitha fire from raging down to the foot of the mountain cluster, namely to the populated town of Thrakomakedones, the Kleiston Monastery road, and the Liosia-Zefyri road.

    Asked whether the prime minister was displeased, Polydoras replied in the negative, adding that Karamanlis had analysed the facts and given instructions for the forces to be deployed where they were needed, stressing that "we have done a lot of work and are continuing to do so, and must continue the battle with cool-headedness".

    Regarding the fire at Schimatari, Polydoras said it was now partially under control, adding that there was no particularly worry given that the site was easily accessible by both land and airborne means. The fire at Schimatari, which broke out on Thursday, had rekindled earlier, burning its way to the coast of Avlonas and Ritsona, and was being battled by 70 firefighters with 21 fire engines and a 15-member land team, aided by a helicopter.

    Another large front was burning in Pelio, with three blazes at Neochori, Kalamaki and Milies, which were being tackled by 123 firefighters with 49 fire engines, an 87-strong team on foot, and 100 conscripts, aided by two airplanes and a helicopter dropping water at Neochori and Kalamaki and three more planes and a helicopter dropping water at Milies.

    Also blazing away were the fires at Agia and Melivia in Larissa, which were being battled by 116 firefighters with 36 fire engines, a 30-member team on foot and 100 conscripts, assisted by five firefighting planes.

    Another front also continued to blaze away for a fourth day at Karaouli in Elefsina, in a difficult to access area of pine forest, and was being tackled by 42 firefighters with 14 fire eingines and a 60-strong land team.

    Finally, a fire that broke out shortly after midnight in a pine forest at Chryssokelaria, Messinia, was also blazing away, being tackled by 20 firefighters with 8 fire engines and a helicopter.

    [02] Papandreou hastens return to Athens

    Main opposition PASOK leader and Socialist International (SI) president George Papandreou cut short his attendance at the SI Council meeting in Geneva and returned to Athens on Friday due to the extent of the massive fire raging away on Mt. Parnitha in the Greek capital.

    He has called an emergency meeting at the PASOK headquarters to examine the fire situation throughout the country.

    Papandreou was in constant contact with Athens on Thursday, and particularly with PASOK secretary Nikos Athanassakis, who went to Parnitha earlier in the day and briefed the party leader by phone on the situation.

    The PASOK leader was due to address the SI Council later on Friday, which is due to discuss the developments in the Balkans, particularly Kosovo, as well as the Middle East, with emphasis on Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq, attended by 300 representatives of member parties, including more than 40 political party leaders, heads of state and government, and officials of international organisations.

    Papandreou, who arrived in Geneva on Thursday, attended the SI opening dinner on Thursday night.

    The PASOK leader was in constant contact throughout Thursday with Athanassakis and other party officials, who kept him abreast of the fire situation in Greece.

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