France leads foreign help to battle Greek fires

27th August 2007, Comments 0 comments

France leads foreign help to battle Greek fires

BRUSSELS, Aug 26, 2007 (AFP) - France led a wave of international help in the fight to control deadly fires devastating southern Greece Sunday, with Russia and the United State providing additional support.

A Greek foreign ministry spokesman said European Union and Mediterranean countries had so far offered 14 planes and 10 helicopters to help fight the forest blazes which are threatening world heritage sites.

The fires in the Peloponnese peninsula and the Aegean island of Euboea northeast of Athens have so far killed 51 people.

Greek Economy Minister Georges Alogoskoufis said he was negotiating with the European Commission to try to unlock special emergency funds set aside for this kind disaster.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said Paris had offered 60 firefighters and four waterbombing Canadair planes: specially designed aircraft that scoop up water and dump it on fires.

Fillon's office said he had spoken with Greek Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis.

"He assured him that France was ready to bring him extra support if the situation required it and presented his condolences on behalf of the French government after the death of more than 50 people," it added.

The death toll so far makes them among the world's deadliest forest fires in the past 150 years.

Italy, where forest fires have claimed 12 lives this summer, also sent one of its special firefighting planes Saturday, while two more planes from Spain were due to arrive Sunday evening, said the European Commission.

Portugal had also sent a Canadair Sunday.

Germany was expected to send three helicopters Sunday and the Netherlands another two, said the commission. Norway, Sweden and Austria were also offering helicopters.

The Greek foreign minister said Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Switzerland had offered planes and helicopters. Cyprus had sent 30 firefighters and six fire engines, while Israel was offering its help.

Athens was also seeking help further field, said the statement: they were in talks with both Russia and the United States to decide what kind of support they could offer.

Athens appealed to the European Union for help on Friday through the European Commission's Community Mechanism for Civil Protection.

For the first time in more than 50 years, Greece has suffered three successive heatwaves this summer with temperatures peaking in June and July at a record 46 degree Celsius (114 Fahrenheit).

Greece has has been forced to appeal for international aid to help fight forest fires several times already this year.


Subject: French news

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