Aid arrives as EU help sought

Banks, state institutions and business groups yesterday pledged more than 70 million euros in aid for citizens who have lost loved ones or homes in the recent fires that have devastated Greece. Moreover, Deputy Economy Minister Christos Folias flew to Brussels yesterday to seek emergency funding for damages expected to have surpassed 1.5 billion euros. Additional donations and support were made from abroad. Australian Prime Minister John Howard pledged 4 million euros in aid. Turkey and Germany pledged aircraft to help boost firefighting efforts which continued for a fourth day yesterday. Turkey has sent a water-dropping plane and Germany is sending four helicopters, which will operate alongside Greek craft and 31 additional planes sent from several countries over the weekend. Donations were also sent in the form of 150 tons of bottled water from residents of Kavala, in northern Greece, to the hardest-hit prefecture of Ileia. Residents of Ileia also received a fire engine and four water tanks from the Piraeus Prefect’s office. Of some 70 million euros pledged for fire victims, 50 million euros was donated by the National Bank of Greece. Piraeus Bank and Bank of Greece donated 5 million euros each, while ATEbank gave 3.5 million euros. Parliament donated another 5 million euros. An additional 500,000 euros was pledged by the Church of Greece. Anyone wanting to donate money can do so by visiting the branch of any commercial bank and making a deposit in Account No: 2341103053. Compensation for fire victims pledged by the government on Sunday is to be made available in the next few days, authorities said yesterday. The measures include emergency payments of 3,000 euros for those who lost property and 10,000 euros to the closest relative of anyone killed in a fire. Victims will also be helped with loan repayments. Firefighters are to receive a 2,500 euro bonus for their work, authorities said.