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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-24

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Government announces measures against forest fires, heatwave

  • [01] Government announces measures against forest fires, heatwave

    The government on Tuesday announced a series of measures for dealing with forest fires and the heat wave that is sweeping the country, decided during a meeting of the inner cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

    The cabinet also expressed its grief over the tragic loss of the two pilots of a Canadair firefighting plane that crashed on Monday while trying to extinguish a fire near Styra on the island of Evia, extending their condolences to the families of the two men killed in the line of duty.

    The measures announced after the meeting included 24-hour patrols by the fire brigade in sensitive areas, the hiring of 1,300 additional firemen through a hiring process that was due to begin very shortly and to ask for more fire-fighting aircraft and helicopters in the framework of European cooperation. In addition, the Public Power Corporation (PPC) and the Hellenic Transmission System Operation (HTSO) will be required to stay on alert to deal with possible malfunctions in the power grid.

    Emerging from the meeting, ministers urged the public to help by making ?reasonable? use of air-conditioning and electrical appliances and rejected criticism from main opposition PASOK leader George Papandreou, accusing him of exploiting the struggles and anxiety of people facing extremely difficult events in order to engage in petty party politics.

    Regarding the government‚s refusal of a request by Papandreou for a meeting of the political party leaders, ministers repeated the government‚s reply on Monday and said that the proposal revealed that Papandreou, ?lacking ideas, was making moves that did not have any result?.

    Interior Minister Prokopis Pavlopoulos announced that coordinating bodies in prefectures throughout the country will meet on Wednesday to work out the details of the fire brigade‚s 24-hour patrols in order to improve the guarding of vulnerable areas in collaboration with local authorities. He also took the opportunity to thank local government throughout Greece for its contribution toward fighting fires and minimizing the damage these caused.

    According to Pavlopoulos, the coordination and cooperation between the various services involved had been effective and efficient, even in the face of conditions of unprecedented difficulty. He stressed that this became apparent when one looked at the sheer number of different fires that started on Monday and how quickly these were put out.

    He also expressed his own personal grief for the two men that lost their lives in the line of duty on Evia, emphasizing that the men of the fire department were making superhuman efforts and asking all to support them in their ?titanic battle?.

    Public Order Vyron Polydoras - also in charge of the fire brigade - presented figures regarding the damage inflicted by this year‚s fires compared with the past.

    According to the minister, in June 2006 there were 28 take-offs by fire-fighting aircraft and a total of 92.6 hours flight time, while in June 2007 there were 410 hours of flight and a total of 128 aircraft take-offs. In July 2006 there were 316 hours of flight time and 105 aircraft take-offs which in July 2007 more than doubled to 650 hours of flight time and 202 take-offs.

    Quoting Defence Minister Evangelos Meimarakis, meanwhile, he said that all aircraft used in fire-fighting underwent meticulous maintenance according to international standards and that rules for working days and rest for pilots was strictly observed.

    He stressed that conditions were extremely difficult but that the situation was not hopeless and said that he had asked and received the cabinet‚s approval for actions to look after the welfare of seasonal and regular firemen and to secure additional fire-fighting aircraft from other countries in Europe, while pointing out that Greece had the highest number of such aircraft than any other EU country.

    The minister also outlined the measures taken to ensure the future of 5,500 seasonal fire-fighters, while it had also hired another 630 full-time firemen for the first time since 2000 and was now in the process of hiring an additional 1,300, while it had doubled the fleet of heavy helicopters used to fight fires by an additional five.

    Statements were also made by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas regarding the strains on the country‚s power grid due to higher consumption prompted by the high temperatures. Calling the conditions unprecedented, he stressed that the network had been ?tested and held up? and said the government had taken all measures necessary to ensure that it would continue to hold up in the difficult days ahead.

    He called on the public to avoid using electrical appliances from 11:00-15:00.

    Environment Minister George Souflias announced that the burnt areas on Mount Parnitha had been declared due for reforestation and that 220 specialist lumberjacks had been installed there since Friday to construct flood-protection works.

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