Zante wildfires: Meaty blaze sweeps tourist island as Greece announces state of emergency
‘It’s arson with a plan,’ claims justice minister
- Staff and agency
- Tuesday fifteen August two thousand seventeen 14:13 BST
The Independent Online
A firefighting helicopter makes water drop as a wildfire burns near the village of Metochi, north of Athens, Greece Reuters
Arsonists have sparked large fires on the Greek island of Zante, a member of parliament has claimed.
Authorities announced an emergency after flames raged for four days on the island, also known as Zakynthos, which is a popular destination for British tourists.
“It’s arson according to an organised plan,” Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, who is the member of parliament for Zakythnos, told state TV when asked to comment on the dozen fires searing on the island. “There is no doubt about it.”
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Late July and August often see outbreaks of forest and brush fires in Greece, where high temperatures help create tinder-box conditions.
Twitter users posted pics displaying flames and smoke rising from the hills around their homes.
Firefighters have also been battling a thick wildfire near Athens for several days, which has scorched thousands of hectares of land.
Day three with forest fire in #Zakynthos , this one I think embarked around noon. pic.twitter.com/PEhlFgo6g9
— Kristoffer Risa (@kristofferrisa) August 13, two thousand seventeen
It began in Kalamos, a coastal holiday spot some forty five km (30 miles) northeast of the capital, and spread to three more towns, hurting dozens of homes. A state of emergency was announced in the area.
“We are attempting to contain the active fronts and the main priority is the protection of human life,” fire brigade spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri told a press briefing.
Three fire-fighting planes and six water-throwing helicopters operated through the morning, assisting one hundred eighty firefighters and about one hundred military personnel battling the blaze on the ground near the town of Kapandriti.
Rugged terrain dotted with petite communities made the fire fighting difficult, with winds rekindling the blaze at many catches sight of along the front. Thick billowing smoke rendered fire fighting from the air difficult.
Authorities ordered a precautionary evacuation of two summer camps and homes in the area and evacuated a monastery after flames reached its fence on Monday. Hundreds of Kalamos residents fled, heading to the beach to spend the night.
A resident of Kalamos said: “It was a terrible mess . You could see homes on fire, people running, people desperate, it was chaos and the fire was very big.”