Greek fires may be under control

EU steps in with firefighting effort as Greek goverment comes under criticism.

    Villagers receive supplies of food
    from a Greek Orthodox church [AFP]

    Laurence Lee, reporting from the western Peloponnese, said it was clear things were improving, but villagers were still angry at how the situation was handled and are struggling to cope with the loss.

    In the Makistos village, where seven people died, one resident said: "I came barefoot from Albania for a better life, but now I'm back where I started. I lost my house, my animals, my mother-in-law."

    The victims died mainly after becoming trapped by fast-moving fires, but firefighters said on Tuesday that the flames posed no immediate danger to villages.
    Economic impact

    Air tankers were dropping water, and help was being co-ordinated on the ground to put many of the fires out.

    Southern Greece is the worst-hit region. Flames ravaged olive groves, forest and orchards and incinerated homes, wild animals and livestock as well as damaging the birthplace of the Olympic Games in Ancient Olympia.

    The government said it budgeted nearly one-third of a billion euros for the immediate relief operation, but the foreign ministry said the final cost of the damage is likely to be much higher.

    Hundreds of people have taken to the streets of Athens to protest against what they see as a lackluster response from the government.

    The government blames the fires on arsonists.


    Evangelos Andaneros, the Greek government spokesman, told al Jazeera: "The width of the firefronts and difficulties are really big, but this is not an accident. I would like to underline that the government does not imply anything, but the thing that every citizen is thinking."

    Karolos Papoulias, the Greek president, called the fires "a national catastrophe".

    He also called the Greek political parties to show "maturity" as they traded insults and blame over the handling of the firefighting effort ahead of early elections on September 16.

    The hunt is on for arsonists with more than a $1m reward for any leads, but with an election just over two weeks away, time may not be on the government's side in trying to repair the damage already done.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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