Skiathos fire razes big tract of forest

A large fire on Skiathos, which has ravaged some 2,000 hectares of forestland and burnt homes on the island since it broke out on Thursday morning, was partly under control last night. Firemen remained on standby as high winds fueled fears that the blaze would rekindle. Municipal authorities on the island, which yesterday remained on high alert, said the blaze was the work of arsonists. Residents said it had started at an illegal landfill. Several other fires broke out in other parts of the country. Two blazes on Mount Athos were contained before they could threaten the monastic community located on the mountain’s slopes. The two fires, and another blaze in Halkidiki, are believed to have been caused by lightning. Another fire on the island of Lesvos was curbed before it caused widespread damage. A huge blaze in the region of Agia near Larissa at the end of last month, in which two men were killed, wreaked damaged totaling some 5.5 million euros, according to preliminary estimates by local officials. The ministry has pledged 300,000 euros to local authorities so far. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis yesterday expressed the government’s gratitude to the country’s firefighters – «risking their lives in extremely adverse conditions as we unfortunately saw in Crete» – during a speech before New Democracy’s central committee. Opposition PASOK criticized the government over what it branded the «paralysis» of the fire service.

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