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Anger after ‘fireworks from yacht party’ spark Greek forest fire

Fireworks launched from a yacht party have been blamed for a forest fire that broke out on the Greek island of Hydra.

The blaze engulfed the only pine forest on the island, which lies south of Athens, according to the local firefighting authority.

It came as firefighters battled at least 45 wildfires across southern Greece fanned by gale-force winds.

One volunteer firefighter was killed, with authorities describing the “superhuman” effort to contain the wildfires.

The fireworks were set off from the yacht near Hydra at roughly 11.20pm on Friday, according to local officials.

The forest is on the south-eastern tip of the island, near Agios Nikoloas beach, and inaccessible by roads. Firefighters had to use a coast guard vessel to access the forest via the sea.

The blaze has now been contained, according to local authorities.

“We are indignant that some people so irresponsibly fired fireworks into a pine forest,” Hydra Mayor Giorgos Koukoudakis told Greek stae broadcaster ERT.

“We are at the peak of the tourist season so everyone needs to be responsible for their actions.”

He said authorities could potentially seek legal action against those on the yacht. According to local reports, a number of people have been arrested.

One user on social media commented: “Rich people with more money than brains destroying our homes.”

Summer wildfires are common in Greece, and scientists have warned that extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change.

But the Greek government has also looked to crack down on arsonists, after dozens of people were arrested last year following deadly wildfires in August.

Earlier this year, the government introduced tougher anti-arsonism laws, with fines well over ten times previous levels.

Culprits can now face 20 years in prison or fines of roughly £169,000.

On Friday, a 55-year-old volunteer firefighter was killed as several forest fires fanned by gale-force winds battered Greece’s southern tip and forced evacuations, the fire brigade said.

The man was injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula and died at a hospital, said a fire service official.

Some 120 firefighters, assisted by dozens of engines, were deployed to tame forest fires in Achaia region, which spread fast to the nearby district of Ilia and raged uncontrolled.

Fire brigade spokesman Vassilios Vathrakogiannis said around 45 wildfires broke out within hours of each other.
“All forces are making a superhuman effort to tame them,” he said.

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