Wind fans fires on Evia, Crete

Dozens of firefighters were dispatched to the islands of Evia and Crete yesterday to battle large blazes that were fanned by winds reaching up to 11 on the Beaufort scale. The blaze on Evia broke out in the island’s southern municipality of Karystos on Saturday night and, fueled by strong winds, burned throughout the night. Water-dropping aircraft had been poised to take off in the early hours yesterday and join efforts to extinguish the blaze from the ground but the the wind remained too strong. At least four homes in the village of Aetos were damaged by the flames but ground forces managed to curb the blaze from other residential areas. Water-dropping aircraft took off shortly after 6.30 p.m., when the wind had dropped sufficiently, and the blaze was said to be partially under control by nightfall, the fire service said. Hundreds of residents and tourists fled houses and hotels earlier in the day but most had returned by last night. On Crete, firefighters yesterday fought three blazes in the prefecture of Rethymno. The worst of the blazes razed several hectares of forestland above the beach of Preveli, in the island’s south. The blaze, which was also fanned by strong winds, had approached a local monastery at one point but firemen managed to contain it before it posed a real threat to the monastic community. The local prefectural official responsible for civil protection, Antonis Bayiartakis, described the damage wreaked by the blaze as «a massive disaster – a huge blow for the environment, culture and tourism sectors.» The fire had been brought under partial control by late last night.