Greece's Chios island in state of emergency as wildfire rages

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 25, 2016 6:39 AM

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece has declared a state of emergency on the Aegean island of Chios, which has been engulfed by a wildfire raging out of control, authorities said on Monday.

Dozens of firefighters and aircraft were deployed to fight the forest fire which broke out early on Monday, burning through olive groves and mastic trees, an important source of income for the island, which has a population of about 52,000.

"It is very serious ... authorities are doing their utmost to deal with it with land and air forces," said Christiana Kalogirou, governor of the Northern Aegean Prefecture, to which Chios belongs.

The fire destroyed mastic trees in the south of the island, just before the August harvesting season for the product.

Chios Mastic, a tree resin used in the production of items as diverse as liquor to beauty products and a gum that can alleviate peptic ulcers, has a protected designation of origin status within the European Union.

"Unfortunately, there is almost total destruction in some cases," a representative of the mastic producers association told a local newspaper, Politis.

Forest fires are common during the summer in Greece, where dry weather and strong winds can quickly fan fires, devastating large areas. Some 70 people were killed in 2007, during the most serious wildfire outbreak in decades.

(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou and Michele Kambas; Editing by Alison Williams)