NEWS

Fires devastate more of Laconia and Cassandra

A forest fire burned in Halkidiki yesterday for a third day, wreaking more havoc and destruction in the area of Cassandra as firefighters also continued their attempts to put out a blaze in the southeastern Peloponnese which is thought to have scorched some 8,000 hectares of land. The fire in Cassandra was being brought under control by authorities last night, with firefighters hoping that the variable winds that had at times fanned flames during the day would die out overnight. The village of Nea Skioni was under threat from the fire yesterday but a huge effort made by the fire service, including the deployment of water-dropping airplanes and helicopters, prevented the blaze from burning homes. Elsewhere in Cassandra though, a hotel and three homes were burned. There were no reports of injuries. Meanwhile, thousands of residents and tourists who had been evacuated gradually returned to their homes and hotels yesterday to inspect the damage from the fire, which is estimated to have burned some 5,000 hectares of pine forest. Most of the tourists decided to continue with their vacations. Some 3,000 of 12,000 Serbs vacationing in Cassandra returned home but only 170 Britons out of some 2,500 left the area. British Ambassador Simon Gass and a team of embassy officials traveled to Halkidiki to help British tourists who had lost travel documents. Meanwhile, a brushfire in the southeastern Peloponnese appears to have damaged the local economy as well as the environment, destroying more than 100,000 olive trees in Laconia. A number of farmers in the area also appear to have lost their homes. More than 100 firefighters from around the country, aided by seven water-dropping airplanes and two helicopters attempted to hold back the fire in the rugged area of Mani.