Greek fires drop in intensity

Firefighting effort aided by weather amid campaign to hold anti-government protest.

    There has been renewed criticism of the perceived inadequacy of the relief effort [AFP]

    The strongest blazes are in the forests on Eleia in the western Peloponnese region, where most deaths have occurred.
     
    "The two big fires in Eleia in the Peloponnese and near the village of Seta on the island of Evia have not been contained but they are not as fierce as they were," a fire service spokesman said.
     
    Protests
     
    A protest was called for Wednesday in Athens to demonstrate against what many see as poor government planning in evacuating villages threatened by the fires.

    "We are humiliated by the inability of the government to save the lives of our fellow citizens"

    George Papandreou, Socialist leader

    "They let Greece burn," said a message sent by text message and e-mail calling Greeks to gather in front of the parliament building at 7pm (1600 GMT).
     
    The protest was called by groups describing themselves as "citizens' representatives".
     
    However, with a general election due to be held on September 16, criticism of the crisis has become highly political.
     
    Socialists in the opposition have accused Costas Karamanlis, Greece's prime minister, of claiming that the fires were acts of arson to deflect attention from the government's handling of the crisis.
     
    "We are humiliated by the inability of the government to save  the lives of our fellow citizens," George Papandreou, Socialist leader, said.
     
    He urged Karamanlis to produce evidence to support the government's claims that the fires were started deliberately.
     
    Hundreds of people have already protested on the streets of the capital Athens to protest against what they see as a lacklustre response from the government.

     

    Civilians angry

     

    Southern Greece is the region worst-hit by the fires, with olive groves, forest, orchards and homes incinerated.

     

    Laurence Lee, reporting for Al Jazeera from the western Peloponnese, said on Tuesday that 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 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.

    Karolos Papoulias, the Greek president, has called the fires "a national catastrophe", but urged political parties to show "maturity" as they traded insults and blame over the handling of the firefighting effort ahead of elections.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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