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2 Sep, 2007 15:08

Biggest fires doused in Greece

The forest fires that have raged across southern Greece for ten days, claiming at least 65 lives and causing extensive damage, are almost under control. International firefighters will continue working until they're all put out. It's estimated that 4,000

There are two major blazes on the Peloponnese peninsula. Both are being kept under control by fire-fighters. The situation is  getting slightly better though it is still dangerous. The number of fires across the country burning simultaneously has decreased significantly.   

The fires have claimed the lives of at least 65 people and left thousands homeless. There's been widespread public anger at the way the authorities have handled the crisis. The government has been quick to offer compensation packages to those who've lost their property.

The Peloponnese peninsula has long been a tourist attraction. It has mountains dotted with picturesque villages and lush green olive groves. Now, however, it’s a region ravaged. What was once idyllic countryside has become hostile and uninhabitable.

Greek authorities say arsonists are to blame. However, an exceptionally hot summer following a winter of drought turned Greece into a tinderbox and, with strong winds fanning the flames, a bad fire season seemed almost inevitable.

Even so, many are blaming the government for not acting fast enough.

“What we see is the Peloponnese is practically destroyed. The economy needs years to get back on its feet and tourism is affected. The government has shown a total lack of coordination,” Marilena Koppa from the socialist ‘Pasok’ Party believes.

If indeed the government has failed, it’s making up for it now.

“The government has been very quick to react with a comprehensive aid programme which helps handle the first difficulties. The government has also committed itself to rebuilding the houses of all those who have lost their homes,” Evangelos Antonaros, Greek government spokesman, said.

On Saturday the EU pledged 200 MLN euros in financial aid. The European Commission’s president Jose Manuel Barosso flew over the burned out areas to assess the damage.

The Greek government estimates the fires have cost the country 1.2 BLN euros, but those affected in the Peleponnese say they cannot put a price on their loss.