Homes Burned in Greek Fires

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 26, 2005

ATHENS, Greece – Wildfires burned homes Thursday and forced the evacuations of villages, a convent and a children’s camp in southern Greece, as a heat wave swept across southeastern Europe.

Greece’s Fire Service reported 115 fires in a 24-hour period as temperatures reached 102 degrees in some spots.

Residents of the Serbian capital of Belgrade suffered power cuts because of network overheating. Croatia’s government officials worked without ties and jackets to cope with the sweltering heat.

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Authorities in the Austrian capital of Vienna plan to institute a ban on public barbecues and smoking in wooded areas beginning Friday.

In southern Greece, villages near Corinth, 52 miles southwest of Athens, were evacuated after a fire destroyed at least 10 homes.

Twelve planes, four helicopters and 300 firefighters battled the flames, which swept through pine and cypress forests and olive groves.

More than 300 children were safely evacuated from a summer camp, while nuns were evacuated from two remote convents.

The fire service said a record number of forest fires have broken out in Greece this year _ with 2,050 fires reported between June 1 and July 18, more than doubling the number from 2006.

Greek Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said authorities were examining whether some fires were started by arsonists who clear forests for illegal development.

In Macedonia, the government declared a two-week state of emergency as temperatures reached 105.8 degrees. Working hours were reduced from eight to six hours, while pregnant women were granted paid leave.

Firefighters in Albania evacuated scores of residents from a village outside the capital of Tirana as an olive grove fire threatened homes.

Associated Press writers in Macedonia, Albania, Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria and Austria contributed to this report.

A service of the Associated Press(AP)