(Athens, August 27, 2007, ANA-MPA)--Five out of seven prefectures in the Peloponnese, southern Greece, along with central and southern Evia were again ravaged by wildfires on Sunday, with 42 blazes contained overnight, including a handful of previously damaging fires in the greater Athens area, although new fires were continually flaring up. Tragically, the official death toll rose to 63 in the wake of an unprecedented barrage of wildfires that erupted since Thursday, fanned by gale-force winds, heat and amid widespread speculation of arson.

During a Sunday afternoon briefing, 63 new wildfires alone were reported in just a 24-hour period, of which 40 were quickly extinguished. The worst hit areas on Sunday remained in Ilia, prefecture, in the western Peloponnese, with one blaze reaching the gates of ancient Olympia, hours after the emergence of a new spate of sudden and ominous wildfires in central Fthiotida prefecture, with one causing the Athens-Thessaloniki rail line to be interrupted at one point.

Prime Minister Karamanlis

In the wake of the unprecedented natural catastrophe, Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis declared a nationwide state of emergency and promised hefty financial assistance for fire-ravaged victims and regions, during a brief nationally televised address.

"The country, since yesterday, is experiencing an unprecedented national tragedy, which cannot be described in words. A tragedy which we are all together experiencing with grief. The confrontation of this unprecedented situation requires a tough battle; a battle which, from the first moment, the state is waging with the support of hundreds of thousands of citizens throughout the country.

"Yet again, I want to express our trust, support and gratitude to the people waging a tough battle, an unequal battle on the wildfire fronts. The battle is continuing ... Our immediate target is for the hundreds of fires to be placed under control, as soon as possible; to intervene where people's lives are in danger; to treat the injured and to support our fellow citizens, who passed and are passing difficult hours. And, of course to proceed, without any delay, to the task of rehabilitating the affected regions.

"All the country's prefectures are declared in a state of emergency ... For the evil to stop, and to start, as soon as possible, the healing ... The state is on alert. I call on all citizens to actively participate, with all the strength they possess, in this collective battle; a battle that must be won for the good of our country.

"I feel deep grief for our dead. I feel heart-felt pain for the mother lost in the flames, clutching her children. I feel outrage. I feel the same rage as you ... So many fires, at the same time, in so many parts of the country, cannot be a coincidence. The state, with the help of all, shall do what is necessary so as to find the guilty individuals and punish them, " the Prime Minister said.

See also:

AHEPA Continues Efforts, Assistance: High-level Meetings with U.S. State Dept., Amb. Mallias

AHEPA Initiates International Emergency Care Package Drive for Greek Fire Victims

AHEPA Calls for Volunteer Firefighters

DOP President Expresses Concern, Compassion for Greece as Fires Spread

Special Encyclical of Archbishop Demetrios for Prayers and Relief Aid for the Victims and Survivors of the Tragic Fires in Greece

Greece Aflame: Urgent SAE Appeal for Help. English text. Greek version (25 August 2007).

Greek Death Toll Reaches 15 in Peloponnese Wildfires (25 August 2007)

Foreign assistance in battle against wildfires

A total of 31 aircraft from EU member-states, Norway and Israel have already arrived in fire-ravaged Greece or are headed to the country as of Sunday afternoon, the foreign ministry announced, following Athens' urgent request from its allies for support to deal with the catastrophic wildfires in southern Greece. Fire-fighters from France and Cyprus, have also joined efforts on the ground. Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said that Athens has been in communication with Washington and Moscow for additional assistance.

* In response to many requests from people around the world, the following bank account was opened for the relief of the victims of the catastrophic fires in Greece [edd: This information about the account kindly forwarded by Magdalene Kantgartzi, Director of Press and Communications, at the Consulate General of Greece in Boston]

Logariasmos Arogis Pyroplikton / Relief Account for Fire Victims:

ÉÂÁÍ GR 9801000230000002341103053
Bank of Greece
Athens, Greece

(Posting date 28 August 2007)

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