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Greece Says 7 More Accused of Starting Forest Fires


As forest fires continued to sweep through large areas of Greece, the government, in Athens, announced the arrests of seven more people suspected of starting some of the fires. The blazes have killed at least 63 people since Thursday and destroyed thousands of acres of property and farmland. Greek Prosecutors Consider Calling Wildfires Terrorism. Nathan Morley reports for the VOA that the government suspects more foul play.

A Greek government spokesman confirmed the arrests, but more suspects are being sought.

The government in Athens has offered a reward of more than $1 million for information leading to the arrests of arsonists. And Dmitris Papangelopoulos, one of the country's leading prosecutors, has ordered an immediate investigation into whether arson attacks can be considered terrorism.

Local television in Greece is reporting that criminal gangs are seeking to use the fires to clear forests and farmland for new construction. The past few years have seen a dramatic rise in property values and a building boom in Greece, which is popular with European retirees.

The fires have left thousands of people homeless, in the worst disaster to hit Greece in decades. A villager in a mountainous area of the Peloponnese peninsula, who watched as his home burn to the ground, told reporters he was at the point of despair

He says his livelihood is destroyed, the wildlife is destroyed, and emergency services have been able to do nothing.

New fires broke out on Monday on the fringes of Athens, with firefighters and airplanes rushing to the suburbs, where flames swept through the brush.

The fires have been fanned by strong, hot winds and parched grass, and have left a scorched landscape in their wake. The worst hit areas are in the southern Peloponnese, with evacuation efforts hampered by the refusal of many villagers to leave their homes.

On Sunday, fire came perilously close to ancient Olympia, site of the first Olympic games more than 2,000 years ago, but firefighters managed to beat back the flames.

Forest fires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers where temperatures can reach over 40 degrees Celsius, but nothing has approached the devastation of the past week.

After Athens declared a nationwide state of emergency on Saturday, many European Union and Mediterranean countries began sending firefighting aircraft to Greece.

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