BBQ alleged to have sparked large Rhodes fire

A 40-year-old military officer on the southeastern Aegean island of Rhodes on Monday faced a prosecutor on arson charges, after his barbecue allegedly sparked a blaze on Saturday that has burned for three days and is believed to have razed some 4,000 hectares of land.

The fire, which is believed to have started in the suspect’s backyard in the village of Istrio at the southern end of the island, also had several other villages on evacuation alert.

A fire service source on Monday told Kathimerini that almost half of the forest blazes that have broken out in Greece since May have been the work of arsonists. More than 100 people have been arrested for starting fires, the source said, adding that almost half of them are believed to have done so intentionally rather than through negligence.

A total of 46 fires started in various parts of Greece over the weekend, at a time when budget cuts mean that local fire services are often understaffed or forced to use faulty equipment.

On the Cycladic island of Serifos, a blaze that broke out on Thursday was brought under control on Sunday afternoon, having burnt 1,700 hectares of forest and arable land. The blaze also destroyed the headquarters of a defunct mining company designed by the German architect Ernst Ziller.

On Crete, a fire in the municipality in Iraklio came close to threatening the Minoan site of Phaistos before firefighters were able to bring it under control on Sunday.

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