Six hikers die in flash flood

The two owners of the company that organized a hiking expedition in the western Peloponnese on Saturday, which ended in tragedy when at least six people were killed in flash floods, yesterday faced an investigating magistrate on charges of manslaughter and causing bodily harm through neglect. Six hikers, aged 23 to 36, drowned after falling into the Lousios River, whose banks gave way late on Saturday under heavy rain. Another 10 hikers were recovered safely but the two other members of the 18-strong, all-Greek expedition, a man and a woman, were still missing yesterday. The owners of No Limits Outdoor Sports, Leonardos Moraitis and Constantinos Christopoulos, say they took precautions but claim that hikers refused to wear helmets and life jackets due to the heat. A member of the rescue effort, which continued last night, said none of the hikers had helmets, life jackets or the special rope they are supposed to carry. The fact that the hikers were not wearing helmets is «a major oversight,» according to Costas Tsivelekas, the president of the Athens Mountaineering Association. «There is always a great risk of falling when walking along a river,» he said. The Hellenic Association of Tourism and Travel Agencies (HATTA) said the company that organized the expedition does not have a license to operate as a tourist enterprise. But professional hiking organizations said such licenses do not oblige companies to impose safety regulations and recruit trained guides. «We have been pushing for a legal framework for mountain sports,» said Dimitris Georgoulis, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Hiking and Climbing. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said a working group set up by the Tourism Ministry is looking into the creation of new laws to boost safety in «this new form of rapidly growing tourism.»