Rhodes blaze under control after razing 5,000 hectares in six days

Firefighters on Rhodes yesterday finally managed to bring under control a fire that had raged on the island for six days, ravaging some 5,000 hectares of land and forcing the evacuation of thousands of tourists from hotels. The blaze, which started near the central village of Laerma on Tuesday before spreading southward, was finally tamed early yesterday afternoon after the efforts of hundreds of firefighters were supported by about 100 soldiers and dozens of local volunteers. Firefighting efforts were assisted by water-dropping aircraft sent by several countries including Cyprus, France and Italy. Local authorities said the destruction would have been far less extensive if rescue efforts had been better managed earlier in the week. «Coordination on the first day was poor,» the deputy prefect of the Dodecanese, Fotis Hatzidiakos, told Skai Radio and Television. The forest of Laerma, the main habitat of the local deer, was almost totally razed, according to authorities who did not say how many animals had died in the flames. A 61-year-old man was sentenced late Friday to four years in prison for starting a fire in the village of Aghios Isidoros, a few kilometers northwest of Laerma, which is believed to have caused the large blaze. Another fire that broke out yesterday in the area of Psachna, western Evia, had been partially controlled by late yesterday afternoon. There were no reports of residential areas being threatened. A forest fire close to the port of Nafpaktos in west-central Greece was also under control late yesterday afternoon.