|Saturday, 24 August 2019|
Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-07-24
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From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>
 Papandreou to meet President on WednesdayMain opposition PASOK's President George Papandreou on Tuesday said that he intended to ask President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias to lead a "national effort" to protect the environment and Greece's forests.
In an address to PASOK's Parliamentary Council, Papandreou also expressed hope that his proposal on Monday for a meeting between the leaders of the political parties in Parliament, chaired by President Papoulias, would be accepted by all involved.
"National consensus on the issue of fires and of protecting forests and the environment will help raise the morale and spirits of the public," he added, criticising the government's present refusal to accept the proposal and its "rejection of consensus".
"Today we mourn the two pilots that gave their lives in a heroic effort to protect our common wealth and public interest. It is not a time for criticism," he said, noting that PASOK had voiced its criticism promptly and in detail, so as to help prevent the things now happening today.
Expressing hope that the deaths of the two pilots would be the last human casualties to the fires blazing throughout Greece, PASOK's leader also called for an end to all discussion on revising article 24 of the Constitution that protects forests.
According to Papandreou, even a suspicion of a possible amendment that would legalise unlawful building in forests fed law-breaking and flouting of rules.
"There is a need to establish a mentality leading to a methodical and in depth policy of prevention and protection for our forest wealth and development based on the environment," PASOK's leader underlined, stressing that this was a major issues for the country for which the government essentially had made no plans.
During the meeting there were also briefings on the Turkish elections last Sunday, on poverty issues and proposals were presented on forest fires, major public works projects and the way that these were awarded, issues linked to the Porto Carras resort and agriculture ministry matters.
Just before the end of the meeting, Papandreou departed for Thessaloniki in order to attend the funerals of the two pilots of a firefighting plane that crashed on Monday while fighting a fire in Styra, Evia.
 Sorrow for dead firefighting plane pilotsMembers of the government and the political parties on Tuesday expressed their sorrow for the deaths of the two pilots who lost their lives in the line of duty, when their fire-fighting aircraft crashed during the effort to put out a fire on the island of Evia the previous day.
Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis had also expressed his grief at the deaths during a visit to the firefighting aircraft squadron at Elefsina on Monday night.
"Over and above ceremony, I came here to say one or two things from the heart. I express my anguish at the loss of your two colleagues, our two pilots that fell in the line of duty. Our thoughts are with their families, whose sorrow I share. We thank you all very much for everything you are doing, for the battles that you give daily over the past days on the burning fronts that daily break out all around the country. You have earned the admiration and respect of us all, of all Greeks, for your heroism and the self-sacrifice that you show. We stand by you," the prime minister said.
Macedonia-Thrace Minister George Kalantzis expressed his deepest sorrow and condolences for the families of the unlucky pilots, who were stationed at an Air Force base in Thessaloniki. Funeral services for both men were held in the city earlier on Tuesday afternoon.
"I cannot find words to express my sorrow. The human mind stops in the face of the loss and sacrifice of Dimitris Stoilidis and Yiannis Hatzoudis, our pilots that lost their lives defending the common good in a great and daily battle on the fire fronts," the minister said in a statement.
According to main opposition PASOK spokesman Petros Efthymiou, the entire Greek nation had been plunged into mourning.
"Two young men lost their lives protecting the common property of the Greek nation, true heroes to duty. The fires have taken on the form of a crisis and all Greeks at this time have in our thoughts the families of those that were lost and those who are fighting the fires from one end of Greece to the other," he said.
According to PASOK's spokesman, however, this "climate that engenders contemplation" was not shared by the ruling New Democracy government, whose spokesman and minister "had the courage to stand at a complete psychological and moral distance from the feelings of the average Greek citizens" and, he added, "to level petty party-political, spiteful, intense and divisive criticism against the president of PASOK and PASOK".
Commenting on the government's refusal to accept a proposal by PASOK leader George Papandreou for a meeting of political party leaders under President Karolos Papoulias, Efthymiou said ND's stance was "inconceivable".
"PASOK's proposal remains, it is a proposal for national understanding," he added.
According to an announcement by the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), however, a meeting of the political party leaders was not an answer to the problems, especially if it did not include the services in charge of protecting forests and putting out fires. It called for a debate in Parliament in which the trade unionists of such bodies were called to attend.
KKE would not refuse to take part if the President were to call a meeting of political party leaders, however, the announcement added.
The party urged the abolition of laws that converted millions of hectares land formerly considered forest to pasture and grazing lands, an investigation of how land was turned into lots on the mountains of Penteli and Parnitha and converting properties acquired in various ways by construction cooperatives and other companies, including the Church, into public land.
 New fires in Peloponnese, northern GreeceThe Peloponnese, the southernmost region of Greece's mainland, continued to be ravaged by fires on Tuesday, with new blazes reported on Mount Taygetus, Achaia and a dump near Ancient Epidaurus.
Residents of the village of Kounina, near Egio in the prefecture of Achaia, fled from the homes when a change of wind shifted a nearby forest fire that was burning out of control toward the village. A strong fire-fighting force that included two fire-fighting airplanes and one helicopter was sent in to tackle the blaze, which started in an area of forest and agricultural land.
A second fire near Egio at the village Dimitropoulos was under control but firemen remained on hand to prevent possible re-ignition.
The fire on Mount Taygetus further to the south broke out at around 15:00 near the village of Polovitsa in the prefecture of Laconia and quickly took on large dimensions.
Man arrested in Megara on arson charges, 3 fires burning in Kastoria
A 39-year-old was arrested in Megara by the Western Attica Security Police on Monday evening, police said on Tuesday.
The man is accused of being responsible for last Friday's fire at the 34th kilometre of the Athens-Corinth national highway, which destroyed approximately 10 stremma of pine forest.
The detainee confessed to lighting the fire, and turned himself in to the Megara Fire Department, which was drafting a case file against him, after which he will appear before a public prosecutor.
Meanwhile, the Fire Brigade's arsons squad was examining a canister of flammable liquid that was found Monday in a gully in Vrilissia behind the Sismanoglio hospital, where a fire had broken out but was quickly extinguished by firefighters.
The Vrilissia fire, as well as a second one that broke out a short distance away in another gully, and a third that broke out near Penteli Boulevard at the intersection with Anapafseos street, are believed to be the work of arsonists and investigations were focused in that direction.
Also, three fires were blazing in Kastoria prefecture, two in the municipalities of Nestorio and Akrites, while the third, in a difficult-to-access forest area on Mt. Grammos, has been burning for a week, as firefighting efforts were being hampered due to minefields in the area.
The fire that broke out Monday in a forest expanse in Kotyli, Nestoria, was reported on Tuesday to be receding, as 40 firefighters with six fire engines were battling the blaze, assisted by a firefighting helicopter. A second fire that broke out Monday, in a difficult-to-access forest expanse in the Kalyvia-Katsara area of Akrites, was also still burning in the forested expanse, which was also mine-strewn. According to firefighters, the fire started out in Albania and spread to the Greek side of the border.
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