NEWS

Fires threaten ancient site, Athens homes

Brushfires swept through Greece again yesterday, forcing tourists to be evacuated from ancient Corinth and threatening homes in a northeastern suburb of Athens as authorities indicated that arsonists were to blame for many of the blazes. Strong winds continued to blow across the country, fanning fires near Patras, Agrinion, Nafpaktos, ancient Corinth and on the island of Salamina, among other places. Around 20 tourists were evacuated from the Acrocorinth medieval fortress as the fire approached the castle enclave outside Corinth, west of Athens. A firefighter was taken to the hospital to be treated for burns but details of his condition were not made public last night. The fire also reached part of the castle but the full extent of the damage was not known as the blaze was still burning last night. The general secretary of Western Greece, Spyros Spyridonos, told Skai Radio that five fires had broken out in his region in just six hours, suggesting that arsonists were involved. He said that two suspected arsonists were arrested following the outbreak of fires in Agrinion and Nafpaktos. Firefighting planes and helicopters also had to fly over homes in Vrilissia, northeastern Athens, to drop water on a fire that broke out yesterday afternoon in a wood in the foothills of Mount Pendeli, only a few hundred meters from houses in the area. Authorities indicated that arsonists, wanting to burn trees to create land for construction, were likely to blame. Officials also said that arsonists had probably started a fire in the foothills of Mount Hymettus on Monday, which threatened homes in eastern Athens suburbs such as Ilioupolis and Vyronas and burnt 35 hectares of land. Authorities said that firefighters were attending to one front when another two broke out simultaneously in other spots. «The destruction on Monday was as little as we could have hoped for,» said Ilioupolis Mayor Yiannis Anagnostou. Two larger fires in 1995 and 1998 led to some 700 hectares of forest being destroyed in the same area.