Almost 7,000 firefighters are to be hired in the next few weeks Some 5,500 seasonal firefighters will be hired on April 1 along with some 1,200 full-time firemen as Greece beefs up its fire defenses ahead of the summer. Deputy Interior Minister Panayiotis Hinofotis informed a parliamentary committee yesterday about the hirings as he blamed the fire service’s poor performance during the wildfires last summer on a lack of coordination. «What was to blame last summer was a lack of coordination and the interventions by local officials that stemmed from ignorance or panic,» he said. GREEK INDEPENDENCE US president proclaims March 25 a day of celebration in America US President George W. Bush issued a statement yesterday proclaiming March 25 as a «day of celebration of Greek and American democracy» in the USA. March 25 is Greek Independence Day, a national holiday in Greece, and Bush said the day would help «commemorate the heritage of freedom our countries hold dear» and remember «the Greek Americans whose strong spirit, resolve and courage helped shape America.» SUPERMARKET KILLING Employee shot dead at work A 40-year-old supermarket employee was shot dead at his place of work in Papagou, northeastern Athens, on Tuesday evening. The victim was shot at least twice in the stomach while in the small changing room used by employees at the supermarket. His colleagues heard the shots and rushed into the room but did not find the gunman. Police believe that the incident is likely to have been a settling of scores. Fishermen dead Two fishermen, aged 62 and 63, were found dead in the Aliakmonas River, northern Greece, on Wednesday, authorities revealed yesterday. The bodies of the two men were found by emergency workers near the spot where their boat was last seen on Tuesday. Their disappearance was reported by two other men who were fishing on the river. Antiquities arrest A 62-year-old man has been arrested in northern Athens on suspicion of possessing illegally excavated antiquities, police said yesterday. The unnamed man was taken into custody after more than 30 artifacts were found in his home. Icons stolen Thieves broke into two churches in the mountainous area of Kalabaka, central Greece, and stole priceless icons, police said yesterday. Officers said the thefts occurred at two churches in the village of Aspropotamos. The thieves also tried to break into a third church but failed. Dodgy salesmen The 37-year-old owner of a motorcycle garage and a 20-year-old Albanian faced a prosecutor yesterday on charges of stealing a bike belonging to the businessman’s rival and blackmailing him to pay for the vehicle’s return. According to police, the Albanian sold the motorcycle to the alleged victim before stealing it, with the help of the 37-year-old. The Albanian is then alleged to have sought 1,500 euros. Both suspects were arrested following the handover of the cash, which police had pre-marked. Muggers Two Albanian youths, aged 19 and 17, faced a prosecutor on Wednesday, charged with mugging children at knifepoint in Nea Philadelphia, in northern Athens. The youths are believed to have robbed at least four children of their mobile phones and one woman of her handbag. US Embassy The US Embassy’s consular section in Athens will be closed next Wednesday, March 26, for internal administrative reasons, as is normal on the last Wednesday of every month, an embassy statement said yesterday. Silver medal Greek swimmer Aris Grigoriadis settled for a silver medal in the men’s 100-meter backstroke at the European Championships on Wednesday night after clocking the world’s fastest time this year in the semifinals. Grigoriadis led the pack through the first lap but was overtaken by Austria’s Markus Rogan late in the return lap for the gold medal. Grigoriadis’s silver medal was Greece’s first medal at the event.