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Greece Seeks Foreign Aid for Fires

July 14, 2000

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ Wildfires burned out of control near the ancient town of Corinth on Friday as Greece sought foreign assistance to deal with large blazes across the country.

Officials said nine forest fires were raging around Greece, most in the region of Corinth, 50 miles southwest of the capital.

Blazes elsewhere had been brought under control. But a state of emergency was declared in the Corinth area, where the fires burned out of control for a second day. The most serious front had burned 2,500 acres and destroyed more than 30 homes.

Rain was forecast for much of the country starting Monday, but officials said conditions would remain hazardous over the weekend.

Israel was the first country to respond to Greece’s call, flying in two heavy-lift helicopters. Germany was sending six helicopters and the Czech republic offered three small planes.

``Of course we will do what is possible to help,″ German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a letter to Premier Costas Simitis.

Greece has the largest firefighting capability in Europe, with about 30 specialized planes and a phalanx of helicopters. But the 6,000-strong force has had to fight more than 1,100 wildfires since the beginning of July.

``Our firefighters are exhausted. They have been on the job for days,″ said Greek Public Order Ministry General Secretary Dimitris Efstathiadis.

Fires around Greece, the Balkans, Italy and southern France have been caused by unseasonably hot, arid weather and high winds. The fires were preceded by a long heat wave that sent temperatures soaring to highs of 111 degrees.

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