Greece battles huge forest fire near Turkish border

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 26, 2011 7:48 AM
Greece battles huge forest fire near Turkish border

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greece declared a state of emergency on Friday in its northern region of Evros and asked the European Union for help to battle a major forest fire which raged unabated for a third day.

The blaze near the border with Turkey forced the evacuation of two villages and could threaten a national park with rare birds and vegetation, but there have been no reports of injuries, officials said.

"The fire is in full progress, it's a quite difficult situation. A state of emergency has been declared," a fire brigade official said.

Greece has asked its EU partners for six firefighting airplanes and is expecting to receive two from France and two more from Spain later on Friday.

State TV NET said the fire had already destroyed more than 7,000 acres of forest. Fire brigade officials said there were eight other major fires throughout the eastern Mediterranean country.

"It's going to be a difficult weekend," a police official said, saying that strong winds were expected.

Wildfires are frequent in Greece during its hot and dry summers, when soaring temperatures are often combined with strong winds, drought or arson.

Environmental groups have long criticized debt-choked Greece for not taking necessary precautions to prevent and fight fires.

In 2007, devastating wildfires killed 65 people, destroyed villages and scorched thousands of hectares of forest and farmland.

(Reporting by Daphne Papadopoulou; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark Heinrich)