NEWS

An arsonist’s blueprint

Suspicions that last week’s massive forest fire in eastern Attica was caused by arsonists were strengthened yesterday as an aerial photograph obtained by Kathimerini showed a distinct pattern to the areas scorched by the blaze. The photograph shows the swaths of land burned last Thursday bordering on areas which had already been built – in most cases, illegally. This suggests a coordinated plan to create room for expansion in a part of Attica already popular with Athenians looking for homes outside the city. The worst-hit areas are in Kallitechnoupoli, Neos Voutzas, Aghia Kyriaki and Aghia Triada, and much of the land burned was on hills with good views of the sea. The blaze, which began near the port of Rafina, east of Athens, before flaring up on multiple fronts, is thought to be Attica’s most destructive in the number of houses destroyed – some 100. However, the amount of land decimated is set to become the more important statistic, as a battle looms between authorities wanting to reforest the land and developers who would like to turn it into real estate. The fire is thought to have scorched up to 750 hectares of land, some 350 hectares of which was forested. The government, fire brigade, local officials and residents are all convinced this was the work of arsonists. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said the land would be reforested so it would be illegal for anyone to build on it. However, governments in the past have failed to carry through similar promises. Over the last decade, some 14,000 hectares of forestland have been burnt in Attica, and only 7,500 hectares have been set aside for reforestation. Karamanlis said he wanted a series of aerial photographs published so the public could see he would stick by his word. He said the public could use the pictures as references in future years.