NEWS

Fire-ravaged Cassandra hit by flooding

Just days after a forest fire ravaged Cassandra in northern Greece, a 30-minute storm yesterday flooded the area and raised concerns about the environmental damage to one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations. The storm, which hit at about 10.30 a.m., created surging flood waters as the 5,000 hectares of charred pine forest can no longer absorb rainwater. Roads and ground-level homes and stores were flooded in the villages of Polychroni, Hanioti and Pefkohori, according to authorities. There were no reports of injuries. Television footage showed cars being dragged effortlessly by floods while popular swimming areas were blackened from ashes being washed onto the beach. The summer storm, however, did have one positive impact as it extinguished the last dying embers from the blaze that broke out last Monday. The speed and ease with which floods hit the area highlighted fears about the fire’s environmental impact. Experts said that one of the government’s top priorities should be to ensure developers do not build illegally in the area. Forest areas must be mapped out clearly with the use of satellite images so that there is no illegal building, Gavriil Xanthopoulos, a researcher at the National Agricultural Research Foundation told Skai Radio. In a bid to help ensure that the scorched area will be reforested, Kathimerini has launched a campaign in conjunction with Skai Radio and TV to demand that authorities commit to restoring the area to its previous condition. Professors from the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki met yesterday to advise the government on an action plan for the Halkidiki coast. The list of recommendations included planting temporary flora that can aid in the absorption of rainwater and building flood-prevention projects before the wet winter season begins. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that anti-flood projects in the area are scheduled to start at the end of September. Meanwhile, the Public Works and Environment Ministry announced yesterday that it will issue state-backed loans with a low interest rate to residents whose homes were damaged by the blaze.