Italian, French aircraft to join Greek fire effort

23rd August 2009, Comments 0 comments

Greece has requested assistance from Italy and France to combat a forest wildfire raging out of control on the outskirts of Athens for a second straight day, the fire department said on Sunday.

Athens - Greece has requested assistance from Italy and France to combat a forest wildfire raging out of control on the outskirts of Athens for a second straight day, the fire department said on Sunday.

"Two fire-fighting aircraft from Italy and one from France will be coming today," a fire department spokeswoman told AFP.

Nearly 400 firefighters struggled on Sunday to contain the wildfire that is feared to have damaged or destroyed scores of rural and summer homes on the eastern outskirts of the Greek capital and further north after surging across a 30-kilometre (18-mile) front on Saturday.

Around 13,000 hectares of land are believed to have been devastated according to reports.

"This is a very significant environmental disaster, perhaps the gravest in recent years," the prefect of the greater eastern Athens area Leonidas Kouris told ANT1 television.

Fanned by strong winds, the fire is threatening homes in the suburbs of Anthousa and Pallini and earlier forced authorities to evacuate two childrens' hospitals, a summer camp and a private psychiatric clinic.

"We face a great ordeal," Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement late Saturday after visiting the fire department operations centre, adding that fire crews were mounting a "superhuman" effort.

The blaze evoked memories of a 2007 wave of wildfires that killed 77 people and destroyed thousands of hectares (acres) of forest across the country.

No casualties have been reported so far from the fire which broke out late on Friday near an area earmarked for a waste disposal facility

With temperatures frequently running above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and seasonal strong winds, Greece is particularly vulnerable to summer fires that ravage thousands of hectares of forest and agricultural land.

Other fires continued to burn on the central Aegean islands of Skyros and Evia and the Ionian island of Zakynthos, which has been hit by repeated blazes this summer.

AFP / Expatica

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