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GREEK FIRES reach ancient Olympian sites

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Bianca
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« on: August 26, 2007, 08:47:19 am »


Farmers try to extinguish a fire in the village of Varvasena about 15 kilometers south of ancient Olympia, 330 kilometers (206 miles) south of Athens on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. Fires tore through parched forests and swallowed villages







                                                   Greek fires race toward ancient sites





By JOHN F.L. ROSS,
Associated Press Writers

 
AMALIADA, Greece - The fires consuming southern Greece raced toward Ancient Olympia and the nearby Temple of Apollo on Sunday, engulfing entire villages and the parched forests blocking their path toward some of the most revered sites of antiquity.

 
At least 51 people were confirmed dead, including a woman found with her arms around the bodies of her four children, and more were feared lost in the country's worst wildfires in decades.

Church bells rang out in the village of Kolyri, near Ancient Olympia, as residents gathered their belongings and fled through the night. Villagers returned to find at least seven gutted houses.

"It's hell everywhere," said Costas Ladas, who said the fire covered more than a mile in three minutes. "I've never seen anything like it."

Fotis Hadzopoulos, another resident, said the evacuation was chaotic. "Children were crying, and their mothers were trying to comfort them, " he said.

The worst fires 42 major fronts were concentrated in the mountains of the Peloponnese in southern Greece and on the island of Evia north of Athens. Arson has been blamed in several cases, and seven people have been detained.

The flames surrounded and isolated villages, prompting inhabitants to plead for help on television and radio as the fires neared towns near Ancient Olympia in the south.

"We're going to burn alive here," one woman told Greek television from the village of Lambeti. She said residents were using garden hoses in an attempt to save their homes.

Efforts to contain the inferno were initially helped by a drop in the gale-force winds that swept fires through thousands of acres of forest and scrub since Friday, the fire department said. But the winds revived early in the afternoon

"Fires are burning in more than half the country," department spokesman Nikos Diamandis said. "This is definitely an unprecedented disaster for Greece."

The government, which has come under harsh criticism for its response to the fires, on Sunday decided to give up to $13,000 in aid to people who lost relatives or property.

"All these areas have suffered an economic and social catastrophe," Economy Minister George Alogoskoufis said. "We can all sense the grief and pain of afflicted people."

Firefighters began to reach burned-out villages and there were fears the death toll would rise. Diamandis said it was impossible as yet to estimate how large an area had been burned and how many homes had been destroyed.

Winds abruptly intensified early Sunday afternoon, whipping flames in the direction of Ancient Olympia where the Olympic Games were held in antiquity.

The fire blazed into the nearby village of Varvasaina, destroying several houses. As residents rushed to battle the flames, others, stunned, walked the streets holding their heads in their hands. One man dashed out of his house clutching a shotgun.

Dozens of charred bodies were found across fields, homes, along roads and in cars. The fire department confirmed 51 deaths, and there were fears the toll could increase as rescuers searched burned areas.

Flames were also approaching the ancient temple of Apollo Epikourios, near the picturesque town of Andritsaina in the southwestern Peloponnese.

Andritsaina Mayor Tryphon Athanassopoulos said the fire was less than two miles from the 2,500-year-old monument and less than a mile from his town.

"We are trying to save the Temple of Apollo, as well as Andritsaina itself," he told state NET television.

Much of the Peloponnese was ablaze, and churches across the country were filled with people praying for the fires to relent.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers and military helicopters reinforced firefighters stretched to the limit by Greece's worst summer of wildfires. In the most ravaged area a string of mountain villages in southern Greece rescue crews picked through a grim aftermath that spoke of last-minute desperation as the fires closed in.

By sea and by land, authorities evacuated hundreds of people trapped by the flames.

At least 12 countries were sending reinforcements for Greece's overstretched firefighters, and six water-dropping planes from France and Italy were due to start operations later Sunday.

"So many fires breaking out simultaneously in so many parts of the country cannot be a coincidence," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a nationally televised address. "The state will do everything it can to find those responsible and punish them."
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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: August 26, 2007, 08:55:18 am »


A civilian holds a watering hose and fights a fire in the village of Varvasena about 15 kilometers south of ancient Olympia, 330 kilometers (206 miles) south of Athens on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. Fires tore through parched forests
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 08:56:57 am by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: August 26, 2007, 08:58:50 am »


An airplane drops water on a forest fire as police have close the main road between Pirgos and ancient Olympia in the village of Varvasena about 330 kilometers (206 miles) south of Athens, Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 09:00:09 am by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 26, 2007, 09:01:42 am »


AFP - Sun Aug 26, 8:27 AM ET A man looks at burnt cars left by villagers trying to escape the fire in the village of Artemida in Zacharo. Hundreds of firefighters battled raging forest fires Sunday in southern Greece that have killed at least 49 people
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« Reply #4 on: August 26, 2007, 09:05:12 am »


AFP - Sun Aug 26, 8:27 AM ET Relatives mourn villagers who were found dead near their burned-out cars near the village of Artemida in Zacharo on the Peloponnese peninsula, 25 August 2007. Forest fires are raging unabated on the Peloponnese peninsula
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« Reply #5 on: August 26, 2007, 09:09:38 am »


This satellite image released by NASA shows fires in Greece, 25 August 2007. Forest fires are raging unabated on the Peloponnese peninsula of southern Greece, killing at least 51 people in an inferno that officials called an unprecedented catastrophe.
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« Reply #6 on: August 26, 2007, 09:14:17 am »


Smoke and flames from a forest fire are seen near the village of Krounoi in south Peloponnese, about 350 km from Athens, August 25, 2007. Greece declared a nationwide state of emergency on Saturday after the country's worst forest fires in decades killed at least 51 and trapped many more in villages surrounded by flames. REUTERS/John Kolesidis Email Photo Print Photo
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« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2007, 09:19:22 am »

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« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2007, 09:24:34 am »

A relative reacts next to damaged cars at the scene where on Friday at least 19 people lost their lives at Artemida village near Zaharo, 330 kilometers (206 miles) southwest of Athens on Saturday, Aug. 25, 2007. The death toll from forest fires that raged uncontrolled across vast swathes of southern Greece for a second day increased Saturday to 37 people, and the casualties were believed to include several children, the fire department said. At least 30 of the deaths occurred in the western Peloponnese near the town of Zaharo, the department said. A massive fire in the area, fanned by strong winds, continued to burn out of control. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) Email Photo Print Photo
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« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2007, 03:00:02 pm »





 Greek fires reach ancient Olympics site By PETROS GIANNAKOURIS, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 7 minutes ago
 


ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece - Massive fires consuming large areas of southern Greece for a third day raced toward the site of the ancient Olympics on Sunday, engulfing villages and forests as the flames reached one of the most revered sites of antiquity.
 
At least 57 people have been killed in the country's worst wildfires in decades, including five who died Sunday in a new blaze on the island of Evia and a woman whose body was found in a village near Ancient Olympia. There were fears the death toll could rise as new fires broke out and strong winds pushed flames through villages and hamlets.

"It's hell everywhere," said Costas Ladas, who said the fire covered more than a mile in three minutes. "I've never seen anything like it."

By sea and by land, authorities evacuated hundreds of people trapped by flames in in villages, hotels and resorts.

A large front of fire was just at the edge of the village of Ancient Olympia, which stands near the 2,800-year-old site itself. Police blocked roads, and firefighting planes flew overhead.

"The winds are so strong that I don't know whether the site's sprinkling system will stop it," said Costas Sofianos, deputy mayor of Ancient Olympia. Although the sprinkler system was activated, not all of it appeared to be functioning.

Fire burns on the Hill of Kronos next to the site of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, in southwestern Greece on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. A massive effort by firefighters, assisted by water-dropping aircraft and fire trucks, succeeded in keeping a raging blaze away from the 2,800-year-old site the holiest sanctuary in ancient Greece. Three days of forest blazes throughout the country have left at least 57 people dead, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris) 


The fire department said some trees at the sprawling site had burned, but that the museum was safe. The ancient stadium and other monuments were so far unaffected.

In the early morning, church bells rang out in nearby Kolyri as residents gathered their belongings and fled through the night. Villagers returned to find at least seven gutted houses.

Fotis Hadzopoulos, a resident, said the evacuation was chaotic. "Children were crying, and their mothers were trying to comfort them, " he said.

The worst of Greece's fires 42 major fronts were concentrated in the mountains of the Peloponnese in southern Greece and on Evia north of Athens. New fires also broke out Sunday in the central region of Fthiotida one of the few areas that had been unscathed, fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis said.

Arson has been blamed in several cases, and seven people have been detained.

Although a temporary drop in the ferocity of high winds early in the morning provided brief respite in Ancient Olympia, they intensified later in the day.

"Unfortunately the improvement that we were looking for is not there," Diamandis said. "Our target is for the fire not to enter Ancient Olympia, not to destroy antiquities."

The Culture Ministry said "all means are being used, and all necessary measures have been taken" to save the site,
and that the army had been called in to create a fire break.

The fire blazed into the nearby village of Varvasaina, destroying several houses. As residents rushed to battle the flames, others, stunned, walked the streets holding their heads in their hands.

Across the country, churchgoers prayed for the blazes to abate.

"Fires are burning in more than half the country," Diamandis said. "This is definitely an unprecedented disaster for Greece."


Elsewhere, flames were less than two miles from the Temple of Apollo Epikourios, a 2,500-year-old monument near

the town of Andritsaina in the southwestern Peloponnese, said the town's mayor, Tryphon Athanassopoulos.

"We are trying to save the Temple of Apollo, as well as Andritsaina itself," he told Greek television.

A separate blaze had abated Sunday in Kalyvia, an area between Athens and the ancient site of Sounion to the south.

Nearly 1,000 soldiers, backed by military helicopters, reinforced firefighters stretched to the limit.

In the ravaged mountain villages in the Peloponnese, rescue crews on Saturday picked through a grim aftermath that spoke of last-minute desperation as the fires closed in.

Dozens of charred bodies have been found across fields, homes, along roads and in cars, including the remains of a mother hugging her four children.

At least 12 countries were sending reinforcements, and six water-dropping planes from France and Italy joined operations Sunday.

The worst-affected region was around the town of Zaharo, south of Ancient Olympia. Thick smoke, which blocked out the summer sun, could be seen more than 60 miles away. The blaze broke out Friday and quickly engulfed villages, trapping dozens of people and killing at least 37. Scores of people were treated in hospitals for burns and breathing problems.

The government, which has declared a nationwide state of emergency, announced Sunday it would offer up to $13,000 to people who lost relatives or property.

____

Associated Press writers Elena Becatoros and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens and John F.L. Ross in Varvasaina contributed to this report.

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« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2007, 03:27:24 pm »



A firefighting helicopter flies over the archaeological stadium of ancient Olympia in south Peloponnese, about 350 km (217 miles) from Athens, August 26, 2007. Firefighters battled to save ancient Olympia on Sunday as Greece's worst forest fires in decades ravaged hills around the historic site and the death toll rose to 56. (John Kolesidis/Reuters)

Greek authorities on Sunday offered up to a million euros for help catching arsonists blamed for starting some of the fires that have been devastating the country, threatening historic sites and killing dozens.(AFP/Aris Messinis) 
« Last Edit: August 26, 2007, 03:32:34 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2007, 03:34:41 pm »




AP - Sun Aug 26, 3:21 PM ET A helicopter drops water behind ancient columns at Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, in southwestern Greece on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. A massive effort by firefighters, assisted by water-dropping aircraft and firetrucks, succeeded in keeping a raging blaze away from the 2,800-year-old site the holiest sanctuary in ancient Greece. Three days of forest blazes throughout the country have left at least 57 people dead, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

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« Reply #12 on: August 26, 2007, 04:16:28 pm »


AP - Sun Aug 26, 3:08 PM ET A helicopter drops water behind the stone arch leading into the ancient stadium of Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, in southwestern Greece on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. A massive effort by firefighters, assisted by water-dropping aircraft and firetrucks, succeeded in keeping a raging blaze away from the 2,800-year-old site the holiest sanctuary in ancient Greece. Three days of forest blazes throughout the country have left at least 57 people dead, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
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« Reply #13 on: August 26, 2007, 05:43:51 pm »


AP - Sun Aug 26, 4:14 PM ET The winged statue of victory stands in front of smoke from fires in the village of ancient Olympia near the birthplace of the Olympic Games, in southwestern Greece on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2007. A massive effort by firefighters, assisted by water-dropping aircraft and firetrucks, succeeded in keeping a raging blaze away from the 2,800-year-old site the holiest sanctuary in ancient Greece. Three days of forest blazes throughout the country have left at least 57 people dead, authorities said Sunday. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
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« Reply #14 on: August 26, 2007, 06:48:02 pm »









                                   Greek fires kill 60 but spare ancient Olympia ruins





By Vassilis Triandafyllou
41 minutes ago
 
ANCIENT OLYMPIA, Greece (Reuters) - Firefighters saved the temples and stadiums of ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympic Games, from forest fires which razed nearby villages and took the death toll from Greece's three-day inferno to 60.
 
Dozens of blazes, from northern Greece to the tip of the Peloponnese peninsula in the south, have blackened hillsides, destroyed forests and raced through towns and villages, causing unprecedented destruction.

Hundreds of houses have been burned and thousands of people have fled the fires, seeking temporary refuge in schools, hotels and regional health centers.

On Sunday the government offered rewards of up to a million euros ($1.36 million) for help in tracking down arsonists who it suggests have played a major role in Greece's worst forest fires in decades.

Thick black smoke billowed over the well-preserved ruins of Olympia, on the Peloponnese. The blaze crept up a hillside, engulfing surrounding pine and cypress woods.

"With self-sacrifice, firefighters fought 'trench battles' to rescue these sensitive and important sites," Public Order Minister Byron Polydoras told reporters.

Fire scorched the yard of the museum at Olympia, housing famous classical sculptures such as Praxiteles' Hermes, but planes, helicopters and scores of firefighters beat it back.

Some 60 firefighters and six trucks remained at the site to battle any flare-up, the fire brigade said.

Ancient Olympia, which hosted the Olympics for centuries from 776 BC, holds an Olympic flame ceremony every two years and is among the most popular tourist sites in the country.

"Here it is, the contrast: ancient Greece gave the world civilization and modern Greece gives it destruction," a resident of ancient Olympia told Alter TV station.

Towering walls of flame have cut a swathe of destruction through the southern Peloponnese and the island of Evia near the capital and swept across other regions, prompting Greece to declare a nationwide state of emergency on Saturday.

"The destruction is of biblical proportions," Nicholas Orphanos, a volunteer firefighter in the Peloponnese, told reporters. "There are villages we want to go to and we cannot because the roads are blocked. In 30 years, I have never seen such destruction."

The fires have covered Athens in thick white ash that swirled round the temples on the Acropolis, and the smell of smoke permeated the city.


REWARD OFFERED

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, who has called a snap parliamentary election on September 16, has suggested arsonists are behind the fires, and the government has offered a reward for information leading to their capture.

"The reward is set between 100,000 and 1 million euros for every (act of) arson, depending on whether death or serious injury occurred and the size of the damage," the Public Order Ministry said in a statement.

Many local mayors have accused rogue land developers of setting fires to make way for new construction on virgin forest and farm land. So far, police have arrested two elderly people and two boys on suspicion of starting fires deliberately.

The first fires broke out on Friday and others erupted in scores of places around the country. The death toll rose to 60 and health officials said it could increase as many villages remain cut off.

"We will all burn tonight," a resident of Matesi village told Mega television on Sunday. "Where will we go, we are trapped everywhere. Are we all going to burn like mice?"

The overstretched fire brigade threw reinforcements from Greece's EU partners into action to fight blazes stretching over 160 km (100 miles) across the Peloponnese, the island of Evia and northern and central Greece.

Two French and one Italian firefighting plane dropped water on burning hillsides and 60 firefighters from Cyprus joined the fray. More help was expected from at least 11 countries.

Villagers used garden hoses and buckets in futile efforts to save their homes. Others jeered politicians, including Culture Minister George Voulgarakis who visited ancient Olympia to assess the damage.

The government has been criticized for reacting too slowly to forest fires that killed 10 people earlier this summer and the blazes are sure to become a central election campaign issue.
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