Blaze threatens suburban homes

A fire that broke out on the slopes of Mount Hymettus early yesterday afternoon and quickly spread, prompting dozens of residents to abandon their homes in the coastal suburb of Ano Glyfada, had been brought under partial control late last night. Firefighters remained on standby in the area, as the strong winds that had fanned the blaze earlier in the day dropped but had not eased completely. There had been no reports of damage to homes by late last night, though a large expanse of forest land and brush was charred. No injuries were reported. Earlier, residents, waiting for the first water-carrying helicopters to arrive, had battled the blaze themselves, using buckets of water and garden hoses to keep the flames away from their homes. On Saturday, Alternate Interior Minister Christos Markoyiannakis had inadvertently caused controversy by referring to the expense of water-dropping helicopters. Asked by a reporter why only two helicopters were operational at the outset of the firefighting season, Markoyiannakis remarked: «While it is still raining in northern Greece, I am not going to approve the operation of all (water-dropping) helicopters, which cost tens of thousands of euros every day.» Two other fires that broke out yesterday in Marathon, northeastern Attica, and southern Evia had been put out by late yesterday. It was unclear whether any of yesterday’s blazes were the result of arson attacks by would-be land-grabbers. The fire service said that local authorities in all the areas affected by fires were investigating reports of arson.