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Wildfires spread on Greek Islands

Wildfires spread on Greek Islands.

It's that time of year again and wildfires have broken out all over the Greek Islands with the biggest outbreaks on the islands of Rhodes, Hydra, Zakynthos, and Crete near Chania. A state of emergency has been declared on Rhodes after a blaze spread to forest areas between Agios Silas and the Valley of Butterflies at Petaloudes.

Nearly 100 firefighters, some drafted in from Athens, are fighting the flames which have been fanned by high winds. More than 30 fire engines, three planes and a helicopter are at the scene.

It is estimated that more than 2,000 hectares are affected by the blaze. No holiday visitors to Rhodes are reported to be involved as this is not in a heavily populated tourist area.

A grassland fire near Chania, on Crete, is thought to be under control and fire outbreaks have been reported around the villages of Lacon, Omalos and Karanos, but there is no risk for populated areas.

A fire broke out on the island of Zakynthos near the popular tourist resort of Keri and 10 firemen with five fire engines and two fire-fighting planes were fighting it.

A fire on the island of Hydra was reported as spreading quickly and 17 firefighters with three fire engines and two specialized aircraft were tackling theblaze.

Wildfire outbreaks on the mainland have also been causing concern, especially in Florina where at least 30 firefighters were trying to contain outbreaks.

A recent fire on the island of Chios destroyed thousands of mastic trees and wrecked the island's trademark mastic gum industry. As firefighters damped down the last flare-ups from the six-day blaze, it was estimated the fire had destroyed quarter of the island's mastic groves, worth around €3million annually to gum producers.

Forest fires are common during Greece's long hot summers, but the country has seen hundreds of blazes in recent weeks following a long summer heat wave. In 2007, about 70 people died in blazes that swept through much of central and southern Greece.

A man has been arrested for allegedly setting the Chios trees on fire and has reportedly admitted to another 14 fires on the island. According to authorities, cases are being prepared against 250 people on charges of causing wildfires this year, 26 thought to be arson and 224 the result of negligence.

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