24 August 2009

Athens' ring of fire: Thousands of people evacuated and state of emergency called

By Mail Foreign Service
4:37 PM on 24th August 2009


Exhausted firefighters in Greece were today battling the wildfires that continue to sweep through the Greek capital for the fourth day running.

All day long more than 10 water-dropping planes and helicopters have been swooping over flames near populated areas to take advantage of a slight lull in the winds.

At the Saint Ephrem Monastery near Nea Makri, north of Athense lderly nuns were evacuated from its threatened convent and the remains of Saint Ephrem were removed to a safer location.

For the fourth straight day,firefighters battled around the clock to try and contain massive blazes north of Athens.

To their relief, more water-dropping planes and firefighting help arrived from other European nations.

In Nea Makri, south of Marathon, local authorities said a blaze stretching for 2.5 miles was tearing down a hillside toward some houses.

Six major fires were burning across Greece, including blazes on the islands of Evia and Skyros in the Aegean Sea and Zakynthos in the west.

...
A man talks on the phone as a fire rages through a house behind him, left, while a holidaymaker sunbathes as a helicopter collects sea water to try and battle the fires


Volunteers battle to extinguish a burning field in Pikermi, a residential area in eastern Athens today


A plane drops water as firefighters try to extinguish a burning forest in Dioni, east of Athens


Locals battle with the fire in Pendeli, a suburb of Athens as firefighters and local residents waged a titanic effort to contain a massive fire in Athens' eastern suburbs that scorched a 20-mile swathe through one of the Greek capital's last forests

"There are some signs of optimism but no letting up of the firefighting effort. We have a chance to contain this nightmare that has burned the city's main forest area," Athens regional governor Yiannis Sgouros said.

"After this, we will assess the extent of this catastrophe - how many homes were destroyed, and how much damage was done."

At Nea Makri, a blaze was tearing down a hillside toward houses, and a dozen nuns were rescued from a nearby Christian Orthodox convent threatened by fire. Volunteers, clutching branches and with water-soaked towels wrapped around their necks, beat back the flames as the evacuation took place.

Elsewhere, residents defended homes, soaking their front yards with garden hoses and buckets of water.
Fires continued to threaten the ancient fortress town of Rhamnus, home to two 2,500-year-old temples.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis toured the affected area on Sunday, amid criticism of his government's response to the emergency.

The mayor of Marathon, Spyros Zagaris, was among several local leaders who accused the government of having no coherent plan to fight the fire.



Smoke hangs over the Ascroplis as the hills around Athens are dotted with raging wildfires


Ablaze: A huge forest fire burns in the Ntrafi suburb of Penteli mountain in Athens as separate wildfires dot the mountainside


Smoke hovers above Athens' northeast suburbs

The Greek government also faced severe criticism for its fire-fighting abilities in 2007, when fires ravaged southern areas of the country, killing 76 people.

Thousands of people fled the fire-striken areas over the weekend, many on foot because fires closed nearby roads. But government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros said the number of people involved in state-organized evacuations was "limited" and most have now returned to their homes.

Antonaros on Monday defended the government's response.

"A massive effort is underway to contain these fires," Antonaros said. "From the first moment, (we had) the presence of personnel on a large scale."

Up to 2,000 firefighters, soldiers and volunteers are involved in fighting fires stretching more than 30 miles (50 kilometers) northeast of Athens. Aircraft have been sent from France, Italy and Cyprus, with more help expected from other countries.

Fires raged, meanwhile, at the coastal town of Nea Makri and nearby Marathon - site of one of ancient history's most famous battlegrounds - to the northeast of the capital, and at Vilia to the northwest.

At Nea Makri, a blaze was tearing down a hillside toward houses, and a dozen nuns were rescued from a nearby Christian Orthodox convent threatened by fire. Volunteers, clutching branches and with water-soaked towels wrapped around their necks, beat back the flames as the evacuation took place.

Elsewhere, residents defended homes, soaking their front yards with garden hoses and buckets of water.

Fires continued to threaten the ancient fortress town of Rhamnus, home to two 2,500-year-old temples.

Over the weekend, authorities evacuated two large children's hospitals as well as campsites and villages in an outlying suburb of the capital.

Officials have not said what started the fires - the worst since 2007. Hundreds of forest blazes plague Greece every summer and many are set intentionally - often by unscrupulous land developers or animal farmers seeking to expand their grazing land.

...
Firefighting helicopters today take advantage of a lull in the strength of the wind to try to douse the wildfires

Authorities evacuated two large children's hospitals, campsites and homes in villages and outlying suburbs threatened by blazes that scattered ash across the city. The flames approached a large monastery on Mt. Penteli.

Deputy Fire Chief Stelios Stefanidis said no casualties had been reported as of early Sunday, despite overnight evacuations of hundreds of hillside homes.

The fires, which started late Friday, were reported in an area more than 25 miles wide.

Some of the threatened areas were in the vicinity of the town of Marathon, from which the modern long-distance foot race takes its name.

Municipal officials in that area said the fire was threatening the archaeological site of Rhamnus, home to two 2,500-year-old temples.

Elsewhere in Greece, serious fires were reported on the islands of Evia and Skyros in the Aegean Sea and Zakynthos in the west. Another large fire that started Saturday in the town of Plataea, 63 kilometers (40 miles) northwest of Athens, was spreading unchecked in western Attica.

A total of 83 fires have broken out across Greece since 6 a.m. Saturday, fire brigade spokesman Kapakis said.- www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews


A volunteer tries to extinguish a forest fire in the village of Kato Souli, about 31 mile northwest of Athens

Photobucket

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...