Forest fire in Chalkidiki peninsula causes political tension in Greece

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

File:Map333.jpg
Map of the Central Macedonia Region - With red colour, the affected area.

A large forest fire in Kassandra on the Chalkidiki peninsula, close to Greece's second biggest city, Thessalonika, in Central Macedonia region, has resulted in one dead German tourist and injury to hundreds of locals and other tourists. The fire, which broke out Monday afternoon, had a front of some 20km in length as it burned through pine forest in Polychrono, Hanioti, Pefkohori and Kryopigi. Approximately 4,000 hectares (8,500 acres) of forest have been destroyed along with about 20 buildings.

The Hellenic Ministry of Mercantile Marine had sent five coastguard ships to the coasts of Kassandra to help tourists evacuate the beaches - sending them to the opposite coasts of Sithonia to escape the fires. According to the British Foreign Office and UK tourist operators, more than 1,500 British tourists were in the area of Chalkidiki when the fire started. Local authorities report that a German tourist was found dead during his efforts to save his family in the coast.

According to AFP reports, in the western point of the peninsula more than 260 firemen, along with troops of the Greek army and volunteers, are struggling to extinguish the fires that continue to burn.

Referring to the fire on the Chalkidiki peninsula, PASOK president George Papandreou criticised the Greek government for what he called its inability to coordinate and promptly address the problem. The response from the Greek government to the major fire that broke out in northern Greece was not at all slow, the governmental spokesman told media on Tuesday.

However, the fire in Kassandra, Chalkidiki has provoked criticism from most of the Greek media against the government, which is blamed for not being ready to tackle such a situation. MPs of the opposition announced to the media that they are ready to officially question the ability of the government to prevent such disasters in popular tourist destinations of Greece like Chalkidiki.

Sources

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