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Greece: 13 arrested after yacht fireworks spark wildfire

June 22, 2024

The yachters attempted to put out the fire, then allegedly fled the scene. The blaze burnt the only pine forest on the island of Hydra.

An early evening view of boats and yachts anchored at the Greek island of Hydra
The blaze burnt Hydra's only remaining pine forestImage: Chris North/Loop Images/picture alliance

The mayor of the island of Hydra, Greece, on Saturday said he was "furious" that the island's only pine forest had been scorched by careless boaters.

Authorities say 13 people were arrested after starting the blaze while shooting fireworks from a yacht. They reportedly attempted to extinguish the fire, yet fled the scene when their efforts proved fruitless.

Firefighters were forced to attempt to extinguish the fire from the air and sea as it is inaccessible by road.

They have so far been unable to gain control of the blaze.

Mayor Giorgos Koukoudakis said his community would press charges against the suspects but also underscored the need to expand anti-fire zones and to create access roads for firefighters.

Greece dramatically increased penalties for deliberate and negligent arson last year, with fines climbing as high as €200,000 ($214,000) and jail sentences of up to 20 years now possible.

Officials say 64 forest and brush fires have broken out in Greece over the past 24 hours. High temperatures and strong winds have complicated the situation, which has been blamed for one death so far.

Regional firefighters warn that the risk of wildfires in Greece is extremely high at the moment.

Following an exceptionally mild winter, Greece experienced its first heatwave of the summer last week, when temperatures soared over 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit).

A two-week heatwave last year was followed by weeks of deadly fires that left 20 people dead.

js/lo (AFP, dpa)