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Greece Assesses Wildfire Impact on Archaeological Sites


Olympia - the ancient site in Greece of the Olympics - was spared by the recent wildfires. But as the government takes stock of the human and economic cost of the wildfires that ravaged large parts of the country, the question of how many archaeological sites have been damaged remains unanswered. Nina-Maria Potts reports:

Nearly 3,000 years of history were threatened -- but Olympia did not burn, saved by a massive firefighting operation.

Foreign firefighters joined the battle, while nearby villages burned. In one village 37 people died.

Greek Culture Minister George Voulgarakis visited the ancient site, provoking debate over the government's sense of priorities. "As you can see the museum and the archaeological site remain the same."

In southeastern Greece, visitors to the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion say they were horrified by the fires and are now cautious about traveling to Olympia.

"Every man in the whole world can imagine what is Olympia. We know the Olympic games and so we wanted to go there and now it's not possible. It's horrible for all of us, and I don't think it's only for the Greeks but for everyone who can understand the whole thing."

Tourist officials in one of the country's worst-hit areas, Evia, say so far tourism has not suffered. The town of Eritrea houses an archaeological site and museum, but was not threatened by fire.

The local archaeological service says there has been no damage to ancient sites in Evia. Some officials say there are so many hidden ruins it may be too early to tell.

Andreas Athanasopoulos manages Evia's tourist information center.

He says at least ancient ruins are made of stone. "Of course nothing can happen to the stones themselves. We will just have to trust the archaeological services, and in the municipalities concerned to start the clean up process and put everything back in order, so that people and ruins can live side by side in future generations."

In Olympia though, many people who lost their homes say this government put ancient ruins before human lives -- ancient ruins these visitors to Sounion want to see survive.

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