Forest fires kill 41 people in Greece
Greece's worst forest fires in decades have killed 41 people in the past 24 hours and more are feared dead in villages still cut off by flames.world Updated: Aug 25, 2007 16:55 IST
Greece's worst forest fires in decades have killed 41 people in the past 24 hours and more are feared dead in villages still cut off by flames sweeping parts of the Peloponnese peninsula, officials said on Saturday.
The fires raged for a second day along new fronts with soaring temperatures and high winds hampering rescue efforts. In some areas firefighting and rescue aircraft were grounded by the winds.
"In total, we have 41 people dead so far," said a police official who declined to be named.
A number of villages have been cut off since Friday by the wall of flames, stretching some 80 km (50 miles) from the Ionian Sea on the western coast of the Peloponnese to Mani in the southern-most region of the peninsula.
Politicians interrupted their campaigning for national elections on September 16 and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis went to the area, saying "these are very difficult times for all of us".
His conservative government has been widely criticised for its slow reaction in dealing with a spate of forest fires during the summer and its popularity has fallen.
"The primary task now is to put out the fires and repair the damage," Karamanlis told reporters after meeting fire officials near the front.
Authorities on Saturday started sifting through burnt out homes in the area in the search for survivors while 500 soldiers were sent to help.
"It's a tragedy," an eyewitness told Greek television. "I can see the burnt bodies of a mother holding her child in her arms. Further away there are more bodies. It's terrible."