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. Protestors condemn govt over Greek fires

by Staff Writers
Athens (AFP) Sept 4, 2007
More than a thousand people demonstrated in Athens Tuesday against the government's management of Greece's deadly forest fires, hours after firefighters scrambled to put out the latest outbreak.

The demonstration, 12 days ahead of legislative elections, was organised by the Greek Social Forum and the Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) against the conservative government of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Demonstrators carried banners with slogans including "Firefighters burned alive" and "Spend money on firefighters, not weapons!"

Earlier Tuesday, Greek firemen scrambled to snuff out a fire on Mount Parnon in the southern Peloponnese peninsula that has been raging for 12 days.

The blaze is part of a broader inferno in the peninsula south of Athens which killed dozens and destroyed swathes of forest and farmland, homes, farms and storehouses before being largely extinguished on Monday.

At least 65 people have been killed by fires around Greece since August 24, and 200,000 hectares (500,000 acres) of forest and other land destroyed. The body of a man was found Tuesday in the Peloponnese.

A large force of nearly 700 firefighters and more than 100 fire engines remained in the region as a precautionary measure Tuesday.

Nearly 100 fires erupted every day on an average last week, amid widespread anger that the government had not intervened rapidly and at the scale required.

The opposition Socialists (PASOK) have roundly attacked the government's handling of the fires with elections set for September 16. Before the tragedy, Karamanlis had appeared set for an easy electoral win.

The prime minister has blamed arson for at least some of the fires, saying action would be taken against those responsible.

The Greek economy ministry estimates the fires caused damage of around 1.6 billion euros (2.2 billion dollars). The European Commission has said the EU could pay up to 600 million euros in aid this year to help Greece recover.

Additional funds could be mobilised beyond the EU solidarity fund, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Saturday after flying over the affected areas.

In Strasbourg meanwhile, European parliamentarians called for an EU rapid-reaction force to tackle natural disasters, echoing a proposal put forward by Athens.

The Eurodeputies, who approved the proposal through a show of hands, called on the European Commission to come up with "concrete proposals."

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Greece Suffers More Fires In 2007 Than In Last Decade
Paris, France (SPX) Sep 04, 2007
Greece has experienced more wildfire activity this August than other European countries have over the last decade, according to data from ESA satellites. The country is currently battling an outbreak of blazes, which began last Thursday, that have spread across the country killing more than 60 people.

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