Aid for fire victims increased

Under pressure from opposition parties and irate residents, the government yesterday raised to 1.8 million euros the amount of aid it has pledged to the fire-ravaged prefecture of Aigialeia in the northern Peloponnese. Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos headed a meeting of government representatives and local officials, including members of opposition parties, in the town of Aigion as the government tries to respond to the unprecedented destruction caused by wildfires in the area. Pavlopoulos announced that the government, which had initially pledged 1.3 and then 1.5 million euros, would now give 1.8 million euros to municipalities in the area. He also said that the 3,000 euros grant pledged to people whose main home was damaged in the fires would also be made available to families who had summer residences in the area. Meanwhile, pilots of firefighting aircraft told Kathimerini that Greece’s air fleet was in need of an overhaul as eight CL 415 Canadair «water bombers» have to take the brunt of efforts to put out fires. Last June, firefighting airplanes clocked up some 1,500 hours of flying time. This June, that figure exceeded 4,000 hours. Russia has loaned Greece a Beriev BE 200 aircraft with its crew to help fight wildfires. The airplane can carry up to 12 tons of water and was used for the first time yesterday to put out a fire in the Tourla area of Pieria, northern Greece. Local authorities said they were impressed by the Beriev’s capabilities. Officials said that the fire in Pieria was under control last night but after burning for several days it is thought to have destroyed 1,800 hectares of pine forest. Another 60 wildfires were reported around Greece yesterday.