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Suspected arsonists arrested in Greece

Thirty-two suspected arsonists have been arrested in Greece, where firefighters are being overwhelmed by major forest fires – the worst in memory. More than 60 people have died and there have been protests in Athens criticising the government

Furious fires in ancient Olympia raged into the early hours of Monday morning, heading straight for the prized national treasure.

The Olympic stadium, the site of the first-ever Olympic Games, was in danger of being engulfed. But luckily firefighters managed to hold back the blaze, saving one of the most significant monuments of Ancient Greece.

The sacred Cronium Hill nearby was not so lucky though. The mature trees and vegetation there are now reduced to charcoal. And the smoke still dances menacingly, creating a canopy of toxic fumes.

Firefighting plane
Firefighting plane

Greek authorities say their firefighting battle is not over yet.

“Today the situation looks more optimistic but still so much has to be done before the fires are completely extinguished,” says Spyros Spyridon, a high official from Western Greece.

On the island of Evia, north of Athens, an international effort helped tackle Monday’s largest blaze. Firefighting aircraft from Russia, France and Italy arrived on a co-ordinated water bombing mission.

With so many fires burning simultaneously across the country, authorities suspect many were started deliberately, with video footage alleged to show arsonists in the act.

“The testimony of witnesses and the evidence gathered from the site of the fire are some of the clues from the preliminary investigation. We have closely watched the video and it seems to suggest arson,” said Nikos Diamandis, a Greek Fire Department spokesman.

Now Prime Minister Karamanlis is offering a reward of up to 1 MLN euros for anyone who can shed some light on those involved.