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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-08-22

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From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] Firefighters continue battling blaze in Halkidiki

  • [01] Firefighters continue battling blaze in Halkidiki

    Tourists and local holidaymakers vacated for precautionary reasons from the first leg of the Halkidiki peninsula, the closest to Thessaloniki, after an immense fire broke out in the Kassandra leg Monday afternoon, returned to their hotels Tuesday morning, as firefighters continued the overnight battle against the blaze.

    A total of 1,178 persons, mainly children and elderly with respiratory problems, as well as holidaymakers, were evacuated from Kassandra on Monday night in a massive operation mounted by the Coast Guard, assisted by merchant marine vessels, private boats and trawlers of local and nearby fishermen, coordinated by the local prefectural authorities and the Nea Moudania port authorities.

    The evacuees were taken to Nea Marmara, Potidea and Nea Moudania in Sithonia, the middle leg, where they spent the night in hotels and camping sites.

    The children from a holiday camp in Pefkohori were also evacuated for safety reasons and taken to a safe spot.

    A German tourist drowned while attempting to board an inflatable boat on the coast of Kassandra on Monday night. According to available information, the man fell into the sea and disapeared under the waves while trying to board the boat on the coast of Polychronou, which his wife and child had boarded earlier. The man was later identified as Georg Hermann, 41.

    Seven people with first and second degree burns, another two with heart problems and tens of people with brething problems due to the fire were taken to Polygyros hospital and the nearby health centres. Halkidiki General Hospital director Dimitris Pachtas told ANA-MPA that five of the seven burn patients were hospitalised while the other two were released after receiving first-aid treatment. The two heart patients were also hospitalised at the same hospital for precautionary reasons, while 35-40 people presenting breathing problems were taken to the Kassandra Health centre for first aid, including an 8-day-old infant, which was originally taken to the Halkidiki hospital and from there to the Papageorgiou hospital in Thessaloniki, where it was reported to be in good condition, Pachtas said.

    A state of emergency was declared in Kassandra late Monday night after the blaze -- which broke out at 6:30 p.m. in a forested area on the mountainside near Poychronou -- spread quickly, fanned by near-gale force winds of 6-7 beaufort, into a ten kilometre front encompassing the regions of Polychronou, Haniotis, Pefkochori, Kryopigi and Skioni, burning tens of homes and cars.

    Halikidiki Prefect Argyris Lafazanis told ANA-MPA that the first priority was the safety of the people. He described the situation as a "biblical disaster'.

    Land and airborne forces battled the blaze on Monday, while strong landforces continued the battle throughout the night, and were re-joined at the first light of day on Tuesday by six Canadair firefighting planes and a helicopter.

    The fire was still raging uncontrolled on two fronts totalling a length of 30 kilometers and, according to Fire Department chief Andreas Kois, the most difficult front was that near the villages Nea Skioni and Aghia Paraskevi, while the second front was between Polychronou and Haniotis.

    Local residents were also helping the land forces fight the blaze and save their homes.

    Hundreds of firefighters and army conscripts were battling the blaze, assisted by local residents and volunteers, while a total of 80 fire engines were being used in the firefighting effort, as well as tens of water tanker trucks from the surrounding municipalities,

    Central Macedonia Civil Protection director K. Kokolakis told ANA-MPA that the efforts were mainly aimed at preventing the fire from spreading to populated aeas, which he added has been partially achieved, adding that the strong winds in the area were decreasing at this time, but noting that if the National Meteorological Service (EMY) forecasts for an increase in wind velocities were realised, this would make the firefighting effort more difficult.

    Halkidiki Association of Hoteliers president Gerassimos Bakoyannis told ANA-MPA that the tourists who had been evacuated on Monday had returned to their hotels on Tuesday morning.

    He said that the hoteliers and visitors had kept their calm, but the holidaymakers were evacuated for safety reasons and taken to nearby areas.

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