Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

After flames out, Athens' fire victims take stock of devastation

RODOPOLI, Greece - Standing outside her home destroyed in fires that ravaged the Athens area, Fani Filosidi sifted through the wreckage.

RODOPOLI, Greece - Standing outside her home destroyed in fires that ravaged the Athens area, Fani Filosidi sifted through the wreckage.

Her family calmly loaded what was left into a small van - a stack of plates, living room furniture, a table lamp and other items.

"It's too much, the destruction is unbelievable," she said. "I could hardly recognize my own home ... I don't know what to say."

The fires around the Greek capital were put out or contained to tiny areas Wednesday, after razing 80 square miles (210 square kilometres) of forest and hillside scrub - an area more than three times the size of Manhattan.

Rodopoli, a small town about 12 miles (20 kilometres) north of Athens, was one about a dozen areas hard hit by the devastating wildfires. Up to 60 homes were destroyed and another 150 seriously damaged, according to an initial estimate. Regional government officials said none of those made homeless had responded to offers for shelter, preferring to stay with friends and relatives.

The fires tore a hole in the front of Filosidi's house, leaving the outer wall standing on its own. At the edge of the scorched front yard, a burnt-out car lay twisted on its side. A neighbour sat quietly outdoors next to the blackened wall of his small home.

Some owners were too busy fighting fires elsewhere to defend their houses.

Panos Bekas drove a water tanker to fire-stricken areas at the height of the wildfires, unaware that his own home was being engulfed in flames. On Wednesday, he rummaged through the remnants of his gutted house.

"I have no other place to go to." said Bekas, 48. "This is all I had. Now my dreams and the dreams of my family are gone."

The government has pledged speedy aid to fire victims. "I'll be happy when I see it," Bekas said.

The fires overwhelmingly spared the cinder block-built homes on the outskirts of Athens, including luxury villas owned by some of the city's wealthiest residents.

After five days of destruction, the wooded landscape changed colour, black spikes replacing trees and hills on the visible horizon dusted in dark grey soot.

It was the most destructive blaze in decades in the Attica region, and the worst in Greece since the 2007 wildfires that killed 76 people while blackening 1,060 square miles (2,750 square kilometres).

Officials have not said how the fires outside Athens started Friday night. Hundreds of forest blazes plague Greece every summer and some are set intentionally - often by unscrupulous land developers or animal farmers seeking to expand their grazing land.

Greek opposition have strongly criticized the government effort, arguing poor co-ordination and failure to crackdown on the rogue developers in the longer term had allowed the fires to reach catastrophic proportions.

In response, the conservative government insisted it coped well, avoiding any loss of life and successfully limiting property damage from the fires that swept through several outlying Athens suburbs and other residential areas.

During the fires, many home owners defended their property using garden hoses and even branches to ward off the flames.

In the small town of Stamata, Paolo Liverani, a 50-year old Italian sculptor scolded authorities for not learning from past mistakes.

The fire burned his back yard, destroying a chicken coop and sculpting equipment, while a few nearby pine trees were spared.

"They didn't learn from 2005, they didn't learn from 2007," said Liverani, who moved here 20 years ago.

"If this goes on I'll be leaving Greece."

-

Nebi Qena reported from Stamata, outside Athens. Associated Press writer Nicholas Paphitis and APTN contributed to this report.

 
 
You Might Also Like