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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 <http://www.ana.gr/>

CONTENTS

  • [01] PM briefed on wildfires front at fire brigade HQ
  • [02] Parnitha fire a 'biblical disaster', Papandreou says
  • [03] Papoulias appeals for environmental protection
  • [04] Heat wave recedes after reaching record levels

  • [01] PM briefed on wildfires front at fire brigade HQ

    Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis was briefed on the bevy of wildfires that have been sweeping the country during a visit at the fire brigade's headquarters in downtown Athens on Friday, with the worst blaze still visible atop Mt. Parnitha, to the north of the Greek capital, in the early afternoon.

    While there, the prime minister also addressed a message to the men and women of the fire-fighting forces over the radio, urging them "good strength and good courage" in battling the flames.

    "On behalf of the State I want to thank you because, always in crucial hours like the ones we are now going through, you fight with all your heart. Above all, it requires spirit for one to fight in such adverse weather conditions, unheard of in our country, to fight with fires of such magnitude."

    Karamanlis has cancelled his engagements for Friday afternoon and Saturday, so he will not be attending a ruling New Democracy pre-conference event that starts on Friday evening on Corfu, nor carrying out a scheduled visit to a stretch of the Egnatia motorway in northern Greece on Saturday.

    Earlier in the day, Karamanlis chaired an emergency meeting at his office as six major forest fires continued to rage across the country, including the massive fire front on Mt. Parnitha.

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

    Another large wildfire was burning in Pelio, central Greece, with three blazes at the Neochori, Kalamaki and Milies sites, which were being tackled by 123 firefighters with 49 fire engines, an 87-strong team on foot, and 100 army 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 prefecture of southern Greece, was also blazing away, being tackled by 20 firefighters with 8 fire engines and a helicopter.

    Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis (L) is briefed by fire brigade officers on Friday, June 29, 2007. ANA-MPA / V. VARDOULAKIS

    [02] Parnitha fire a 'biblical disaster', Papandreou says

    Visiting the charred slopes of Mount Parnitha on Friday, following the devastating fire that swept across the mountain and much of the Mount Parnitha National Park overnight, main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou spoke of a "biblical disaster" for which there was "justified outrage".

    Previously, he had been briefed on the extent of the damage by the mayor of Menidi, a west Athens district on Parnitha's slopes.

    "We must stand by all those who fought and are still fighting the fire - the forest fire-fighters and the local bodies - whose indignation we are hearing at the state's neglect," he said, while noting that this was not a time to talk about who was responsible but about the "major ecological disaster".

    At the same time, he underlined that responsibility for the disaster did exist and that those responsible would be made to pay.

    Papandreou was next due to visit the two other areas stricken by fire, Argalasti in Pelion and Agia in Larisa, where two people lost their lives as a result of the blaze on Thursday.

    The fire on Mount Parnitha - a national park that is home to several endemic species and one of the few remaining areas of forest near the Greek capital - began to the north in Dervenochoria on the mountain's western flank and then a second front caught fire further south.

    By Thursday night it had advanced to the top of the peaks surrounding Athens and ringed the capital's skyline, threatening the northwestern suburbs of Menidi and Thrakomakedones and forcing authorities to evacuate the Mont Parnes casino hotel.

    The fires came after a six-day heat wave with temperatures stuck above 40 degrees Celsius, reaching as high as 46C earlier in the week, which was the worst on record in the past 110 years. At least nine deaths as a result of heatstroke were reported, while hundreds were hospitalised, and there were also extensive power cuts as the country's electricity grid struggled to cope with demand and heat-induced damage.

    Fire brigade officials said many of the fires that raged across Greece on Thursday had been caused by explosions in electricity pylons due to the heat, though arson was being investigated in some cases.

    Caption: Main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou at a fire-ravaged spot on Mt. Parnitha on Friday, June 29, 2007. ANA-MPA/VASSILIS FILIS

    [03] Papoulias appeals for environmental protection

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Friday issued a dramatic appeal for better protection of the environment, speaking in Kavala where he was due to take part in celebrations of the feast day of the city's patron saint, the Apostle Paul, and events marking the 94th anniversary of the city's liberation on June 29, 1913.

    Speaking at a ceremony during which he was declared an honourary citizen of Kavala, Papoulias referred to the major wildires that have erupted in many parts of the country, including Attica prefecture (in the greater Athens area).

    "Yesterday I saw the Attica sky turn dark from the conflagration, and my heart bled. It was one of those moments that makes the human brain stop. Where are we headed? What kind of a world are we creating? What will we leave behind us?. There is no time for complacency. Environmental protection must be our number one priority," he said.

    Papoulias said that each and every citizen, individually and collectively, "must join forces to demand respect of nature, even if this affects smaller or large interests, even if this displeases some".

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Papoulias.

    [04] Heat wave recedes after reaching record levels

    The heat wave that has gripped the country in the past six days began to recede on Friday, after reaching record high temperatures that exceeded 45 degrees Celsius in several areas. The killer heat wave also claimed at least nine lives in its passing, including that of a 17-year-old girl, while another 344 people were admitted to hospital with symptoms of heatstroke.

    Power consumption on Wednesday was similar to the record levels on Tuesday and the Public Power Corporation (PPC) once again advised consumers to avoid using too many energy-hungry appliances at the same time. Peak demand nationwide reached 10,505 MW on Tuesday and 10,512 MW on Wednesday, while demand in Attica alone was 4,118MW.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos appealed to consumers to limit power consumption as much as possible and avoid using their cars in the centre of Athens, while air-conditioned areas in municipalities and communities will remain open for the public.

    Until Friday, access to paying beaches in Vouliagmeni in Attica and Agia Triada in the Thermaikos Gulf will be free to the public.

    Caption: Tourists in Iraklio cool off in a fountain in the city of Iraklio on Crete, where temperatures reached record levels on Tuesday, 26 June 2007. ANA-MPA/Stefanos Rapanis.


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