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FIRE STORM
Fires burn across multiple European holiday spots
by Staff Writers
Athens (AFP) Aug 18, 2012


Croatia fires threaten tourist areas, burn 1,300 hectares
Zagreb (AFP) Aug 18, 2012 - Firefighters in Croatia battled several large blazes Saturday along the Adriatic coast, including one that engulfed 600 hectares (1,500 acres) near the medieval town of Trogir, officials said.

The largest fire was the one near Trogir, a historic town popular with tourists, which broke out late Friday at a rubbish dump and spread to nearby pine forests and prairies dried out by a heat wave.

Firefighting planes water-bombed the area as 17 units of firefighters battled the flames overnight. Some 100 firefighters and 30 vehicles were still at the scene by Saturday afternoon, said national rescue service DUZS.

Three other fires also broke out around the nearby city of Split on the central Croatian coast, engulfing more than 500 hectares, but firefighters managed to extinguish them or bring them under control.

Fires also burned nearly 200 hectares near the central coastal town of Sibenik and 25 hectares near the city of Dubrovnik, a blaze that also crossed the southern border into Bosnia.

Croatia has been hit by dozens of fires that have burned several thousand hectares along the scenic coastline since July.

Greek fire-fighters on Saturday battled a blaze, fanned by strong winds, on the island of Chios, where billowing smoke forced the evacuations of three villages.

Ten water bombers and five helicopters were deployed as 50 fire-fighters and almost 80 army troops worked to contain the wildfire on the eastern island. They also used 17 fire engines and were backed by 40 volunteers.

The wildfire started in the early hours of Saturday in the island's south, and the evacuation was carried out on the initiative of the villagers because of the heavy smoke that covered the area.

"The fire is close to inhabited areas but for the time being has not posed an immediate threat," a fire department spokesman told AFP.

Strong winds of up to 63 kilometers (39 miles) per hour hindered helicopters and water bombers from trying to draw water from the sea because of high waves, the spokesman said.

Further help was under way from other parts of Greece, including 20 fire engines and 85 firefighters, said the defence ministry.

Greece is hit by wildfires, many started by arsonists, every summer, the flames fanned by high temperatures and strong winds.

Earlier this month, a wildfire blazing for five days threatened Mount Athos, the world's oldest surviving monastic community and a UN World Heritage Site, in northern Greece.

The worst major blazes of recent years hit in 2007 in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece and on the island of Evia, leaving 77 people dead and ravaging 250,000 hectares.

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