Fires send Samos into state of emergency

Authorities on the northeastern Aegean island of Samos yesterday started evacuating tourists from properties close to Marathokambos and Karlovasi after fires that had broken out in those areas earlier in the day continued to spread, fanned by strong winds. The evacuations, carried out as a precautionary measure, were ordered after the General Secretariat for Civil Protection declared a state of emergency on the island. The blazes broke out just two days after firefighters on the island managed to extinguish a massive fire that ravaged dozens of hectares in the area of Kokkari after burning for three days in a row. Last week’s blazes are believed to have been the work of arsonists, according to firemen who had not drawn any conclusions about yesterday’s fires by late yesterday. Until late in the evening, firefighters struggled to bring the two blazes under control. According to sources, one holiday home was destroyed by the fire in Marathokambos, a European Union-protected area. There were no reports of any injuries. Giorgos Koutsodontis, the mayor of Marathokambos, said thick clouds of smoke had been hampering water-dropping aircraft in their efforts to extinguish the blaze. Several smaller fires that had broken out in different parts of the island earlier in the day had been doused by the evening. Samos is one of the most fire-ravaged islands in the Aegean, with more than 16,000 hectares of forestland razed over the past decade. Three people have been charged with arson in connection to last week’s fires on Samos. According to the national fire service, a total of 33 suspected arsonists have been arrested this year, while charges have been drawn up for another 70 suspects who have yet to be traced.