Fire devastates Greek island

2011-08-04 17:05
Athens - A fire on the picturesque Ionian island of Corfu has devastated about 130 hectares of pine forest and olive groves, the island's mayor said on Thursday, blaming arsonists.

Pockets of fire that started in 19 different locations on Tuesday left no doubt that arsonists were at work, Yiannis Trepeklis said.

"This is a criminal act," said Trepeklis, adding that a 31-year-old man had been arrested as a suspect and was to be arraigned later in the day.

The man has confessed to starting one of the fires, news reports said.

The blaze raced across a 40km front in the island's northeast on Tuesday night, nearing inhabited areas but without threatening the island's extensive tourist resorts, the mayor said.

The fire department on Thursday said most of the fronts had been checked with the assistance of water bombers and a helicopter.

Scores of fires break out in Greece every summer, aided by high temperatures and strong winds and frequently attributed to arson, though the perpetrators are rarely caught.

In 2007, a wave of wildfires killed 77 people and destroyed over 250 000 hectares of land, mainly in the Peloponnese and the island of Evia.

In 2009, hundreds of people were evacuated near Athens owing to another wildfire in the capital's eastern suburbs.

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