Pressure to reforest Halkidiki after fire

The fire service said yesterday that it had the fire in Cassandra, northern Greece, under control for the first time since the blaze broke out six days earlier as Kathimerini launched a campaign in conjunction with Skai Radio and TV to ensure that the area which was burned will be reforested. Firefighters remained in the area as airplanes and helicopters continued to patrol over the scorched forestland to ensure that the dying embers of the fire are not rekindled. The fire that broke out in the popular tourist resort on the Halkidiki peninsula burned some 5,000 hectares of pine forest, forcing thousands of tourists to flee and leading to the death of a German tourist. Authorities are not sure how the fire began. Many locals believe it was the work of arsonists but authorities think lightning during a storm last Monday may have caused the blaze. Residents are concerned that businesses and individuals will move into the area and put pressure on authorities to allow them to build on what used to be forestland. Greek law does not allow building in forests. Kathimerini and Skai Radio and TV have launched a campaign to inform the public and to demand that authorities commit to reforesting the area. Sources at the forestry service said that each year fewer areas are being reforested. In 2004, for example, only 850 hectares were reforested around the whole country – the same area that was burned on Mount Pendeli, north of Athens, alone.

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