The Latest: Fires Stretch Greek Firefighting Capabilities

Photo by the Associated Press via Newscred

The Associated Press, August 14, 2017

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on the wildfires in Europe (all times local):

11:15 p.m.

Greek authorities say fires that broke out across the country over the weekend have stretched firefighting capabilities to the limit.

The latest blaze started Sunday afternoon in a pine forest and has damaged up to 20 houses in a town north of Athens. One house was destroyed.

The town of Kalamos, some 44 kilometers (27 miles) north of the capital, is a favorite vacation spot for Athenians.

Authorities have shut down a large portion of the local road network, as the blaze expands in several directions, including toward Athens. They also evacuated two children's campgrounds.

Meanwhile, authorities think a series of new fires on the western Greek island of Zakynthos were set deliberately.

The country's fire service says there are "well-founded suspicions of foul play" after five fires broke out late Saturday and early Sunday, followed by another three later on Sunday morning.


7:30 p.m.

Over 4,000 firefighters are battling more than 250 wildfires in Portugal, which has asked for aid from other European Union nations.

Civil Protection Agency spokeswoman Patricia Gaspar said Portugal set an annual record for new fires on Saturday, when 268 separate fires started. That surpassed the 220 fresh blazes recorded on Friday, the previous year-to-date high mark for fires starting on the same day.

Gaspar said that while hot and dry weather isn't helping, nature was responsible for a minority of the blazes.

She said: "We know that more than 90 percent of the fires have a human cause, whether intentional of from negligence. Both are crimes."

Neighboring Spain has responded to Portugal's call for help by promising to send both personnel and aircraft.


7:15 p.m.

Greek authorities think arson could be behind a series of fires fire raging on several fronts on the western Greek island of Zakynthos.

The country's fire service says there are "well-founded suspicions of foul play" after five fires broke out late Saturday and early Sunday, followed by another three on Sunday morning.

Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis, who is also the local Parliament member, said of the multiple blazes while visiting the island: "This is planned."

The fire service said 10 of the 12 fires burning on Zakynthos are still unchecked, with high winds making it difficult to control the flames. A fire brigade commander says they have consumed mostly forests and olive groves so far.

A total of 53 wildfires broke out in Greece on Saturday and more did on Sunday, including on a beach resort near Athens.


4 p.m.

France's interior minister has expressed his "profound gratitude" to the 1,200 firefighters and emergency workers battling wildfires in southern France and Corsica over the weekend.

Gerard Collomb said there been no casualties from the fires thanks to ground crews and the air teams that carried out 300 water drops in 24 hours.

Fierce flames have ravaged some 2,100 hectares (5,190 acres) of land since Thursday in southern France — with 2,000 hectares (4,940 acres) burned in Corsica alone.

Collomb says that while the mainland fires had been tamed, the Corsica blazes were ongoing and still require "major means."

On Sunday, firefighters continued to fight wildfires in the Corsican towns of Manso and the hilly Pietracorbara.

Northern Corsica Prefect Gerard Gavory says over 1,000 thousand residents and tourists have been evacuated.

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