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More fires erupt in Greece; anger at government rises

August 29, 2007|From the Associated Press

ATHENS — More wildfires broke out and others were rekindled Tuesday in Greece, where anger mounted over the government's handling of the catastrophic blazes that have laid waste to vast stretches of the countryside and killed at least 64 people.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for Sept. 16, the fires are dominating political debate. Criticism that the government failed to respond quickly enough -- and its suggestions that the fires resulted from an organized attack -- could hurt Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

Foreign firefighters and aircraft joined in battling the fires, which started Thursday and burned nearly 500,000 acres in the first three days, leaving gutted houses and dead livestock.

Firefighting efforts focused on the Seta area of Euboea island and on Matesi village in southwestern Greece's Peloponnese region. Another blaze broke out in Grammatiko, near ancient Marathon, but fire officials said it was under control by nightfall.

Most of the firefighters sent by 21 countries were in the Peloponnese, fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis said. He said 18 planes and 18 helicopters would drop water on blazes there.

From the northern border with Albania to the southern island of Crete, fires have ravaged expanses of forest and farmland.

The devastation has infuriated Greeks, who are complaining of an inadequate effort by the conservative government.

The Sept. 16 ballot will be "the elections of rage," the Athens newspaper To Vima said.

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