Summer rain saved forests

Mainly due to the heavy rains of August and September, this summer has been the least disastrous in half a century as far as destruction by fire of Greece’s dwindling forests is concerned, officials said yesterday. Fire brigade chief Panayiotis Fourlas told a press conference in Athens that some 4,793 hectares of land – including no more than 290 hectares of forestland – were burnt from the beginning of 2002 until mid-October. The corresponding figures for 2001 were 21,016 hectares of burnt land and 1,844 hectares of forest, while in 2000 – one of the worst years on record – 131,466 hectares of land were ravaged by fire, including 45,996 hectares of forest. Fourlas said that, while improvements in the fire brigade’s organization had contributed to the decline in damage, firefighters mostly had the weather to thank. He pointed out that during the dry season which lasted until the end of July, slightly more fires had broken out than in the corresponding period last year. Ninety people have been charged with causing fires this year, 14 of whom allegedly lit the blazes on purpose.

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