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Death toll mounts in Greek fires

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Greek emergency workers continue to find the charred bodies of people burned to death by forest fires that are raging in the south of the country.

Officials raised the death toll to 41 at around midday on Saturday, but said they feared it would climb higher.

Searches of burnt cars, houses and fields were still turning up the remains of those who could not escape.

The prime minister called the situation "an unspeakable tragedy" and the government appealed to the EU for help.

Greek newspapers are calling the southern Peloponnese region a "crematorium", says the BBC's Malcolm Brabant in Athens.

The fires have been moving so fast that people have been cut off before they could escape. With emergency services overstretched, desperate residents and local officials called television and radio stations to appeal for help.

We are living through an unspeakable tragedy today

Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis

Some of the worst fires are concentrated along an 80km (50 mile) stretch on the west coast of the Peloponnese to Mani in the very south of the peninsula. But others are burning across the country.

Two new fires broke out near Athens, forcing a road between the city and its airport to be closed

A monastery and homes were evacuated as flames closed in on the capital

Arson was suspected in several cases, with 20 new fires starting during the night, a fire department spokesman said

All top football matches were postponed on the opening weekend of the season

France responded to Greece's appeal for help, sending two water-dropping planes, which were scheduled to arrive on Saturday afternoon, AFP reported

Family found

At least nine people are reported to have burnt to death in their cars as they attempted to flee the flames near the town of Zahero, west of the Peloponnese.

The Associated Press reported that a car had crashed into a fire engine, causing a traffic jam from which people could not escape as the flames advanced.

Zahero seemed to be the centre of the disaster. Fire crews said they had found at least 30 bodies in villages near the town, as they searched burned out cars and houses.

"It's a tragedy," an eyewitness told Greek television. "I can see the burnt bodies of a mother holding her child in her arms. Further away there are more bodies. It's terrible."

Fire officials confirmed that a mother and her four children had perished, as had three firefighters.

A local prefect close to the scene described it as horrific.

"The situation is extremely dire... The speed with which this fire has been spreading is astonishing," said the mayor of Zahero, Pantazis Chronopoulos.

Six deaths were confirmed in the seaside town of Areopolis in the Mani region of Greece's deep south. Hotels and several villages have been evacuated, fire officials said.

'Incredible efforts'

But hot, dry winds were expected to continue through Saturday, gusting up to gale force and fanning the flames.

The winds hampered the use of fire-fighting planes, though some helicopters have managed to take flight.

"The helicopters are operating whenever the weather conditions permit... The pilots are making incredible efforts," fire department spokesman Nikos Diamandis said.

The overstretched fire services are being helped by the military, but our correspondent says troops do not seem trained or equipped for the task, and are no match for the intense flames.

A hot, dry summer, with temperatures recently touching 40C (104F) has left much of the country vulnerable. On the island of Evia, north of the capital, three villages were evacuated as a fire approached.

"If we don't stop this now there will be nothing left," said Sofia Moutsou, mayor of the town of Styra.

Friday and Saturday have been the deadliest days of a terrible summer spent battling forest fires, transforming what had previously been seen as predominantly an ecological disaster into a human one, our correspondent says.

There has been widespread public anger at the government's response, which many have criticised as inadequate and slow.

Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis visited Zahero late on Friday, and was to chair an emergency meeting in Athens on Saturday.

He is under considerable political pressure, as he faces an early general election in three weeks' time.

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Story from BBC NEWS:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/6963373.stm

Published: 2007/08/25 11:24:09 GMT

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very sad news , it seems the weather

"A hot, dry summer, with temperatures recently touching 40C (104F) has left much of the country vulnerable. and  hot, dry winds were expected to continue through Saturday, gusting up to gale force and fanning the flames."

I guess I should stop bitching about our wet summer in the UK ,I think  it would take a flamethrower to start a fire here ,

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Thanks for posting this article "resop"

I wanted to put it up, because I am a Greek American and lived there for 6 years and all my family is there.Every time I try talking about it...it gets me really sad..to see what Greeks are doing to their own country, to hear about all these deaths.And yes a lot has to do with arson..this time these guys picked the perfect time to accomplish it. It is something that I do not want to get into detail about (the arsonists) but again thanks for posting this!! and letting the world know whats going on

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yeah, the world is full of retards :uglystupid2: ,and  going for the 5 mins. of fame  :evil2:

so you are not alone there  DJ VaGGo.

The latest now is 62 dead..and the fire has reached ancient Olympia :sad:

And one of the villages where my uncle lives is now burned completely

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:cry2:, hope your uncle is OK , Greece the cradle of modern society is burning :cry2:

but good to see Europe  is resoponding ;

http://www.smh.com.au/news/world/greek-fires-claim-more-than-50/2007/08/26/1188066946096.html

"Flags flew at half-mast over the Greek parliament in Athens as Mr Karamanlis held an emergency meeting. Officials appealed to European Union countries for help." 

France sent two firefighting aircraft, while Germany offered three helicopters.

Duh, :evil2: the UK is slow as usual, and concidering our Queens husband and UK consort is Greek . (Prince Phillip ) , it's a bad show from the UK, :evil2:,

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