Bounty out for arsonists

A week after one of Attica’s most destructive forest fires, which authorities are convinced was the work of arsonists, the government has offered a reward of up to 100,000 euros for anyone who comes forward with information that could lead to arrests. The decision was rubber-stamped during a meeting between the prime minister and several of his ministers yesterday morning. According to the agreement, the rewards will range between 10,000 and 100,000 euros, depending on the quality of information people supply. The rewards are offered for any fire between July 1 and October 31 this year. The size of the reward will also depend on the size of the fire, the government decided. «We are determined to bring the culprits to justice,» said Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. «In the fight against all these rings that destroy and appropriate forestland, we want – and I am sure we will have – the whole of Greek society behind us.» No one has been arrested in connection with any forest fires this summer. The government also said it is speeding up the process for some 100 homeowners whose properties were destroyed by last week’s blaze to obtain special rebuilding loans. The state will pay for one-third of the loan. The rest will be interest-free, and homeowners can pay it back over 15 years. «The state’s obligation to those affected is being fulfilled completely. The government means what it says,» said Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos. The ruling conservatives will be tested on this last point as they have pledged new trees will be planted in all of the forested areas (some 350 hectares) burnt last week. To this end, the government yesterday released aerial photographs taken by the Greek air force showing the damage done by the blaze. «These photographs are accurate to a tenth of a degree so we can clearly define the area that has been destroyed,» said Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos. «Wherever there was forest, it will remain as such.» Meanwhile, authorities were yesterday adding up the cost of more fires. Some 400 hectares, of which 230 were farmland, were burned during a Wednesday blaze in the area of Mesara on the island of Crete.