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August 27, 2007

Mourning a national disaster

It has been a very sombre weekend here in Greece, watching on as the national disaster of the fires sweeping through the country unfolds. The government has declared a state of emergency, and this photograph by NASA of the country ablaze from space shows the extent of the battle being fought


It is incredible to think that so much of this devastation has been man-made. Arson is thought to be the prime cause of the fires. What could move someone to start a fire on purpose when the country has already experienced such terrible forest fires already this year, and is obviously tinder-box dry?

Although nowhere near as bad as the mainland, Crete has been ablaze as well. Last week we had a big fire up in the hills behind our house. It was a good ways-away from us, but the fire-fighting helicopter wasn't. It kept bombing down to the sea above our road, filling up at Golden Beach, and then heading back inland.

Helicopter over our house

We went out a little later on to Agia Apostoli, to the Bamboo bar to do some planning for our trips to the UK in September and October. The fire must have moved westwards a bit, because now we were treated to the view of two fire-fighting helicopters re-filling their water buckets every couple of minutes right in front of us.

It is quite scary actually. The weight of the water falling to the ground is enough to kill if you are underneath it, so every time they flew over us we ended up glancing up nervously.

It is also surprising how close to the shore they pick water up from. Of course, I understand that time is of the essence when you are fighting a raging fire, but they end up scooping water up really close to where people are swimming. They are immense, powerful, twin-rotored helicopters, but you can really see them strain to lift the weight of water as they scoop it up. It must be some mission to fly them.

Helicopter over Agia Apostoli

We are lucky - so far. It has been very testing watching the scenes of misery unfold on our screens though. With over 60 people dead, hundreds of homes destroyed, the countryside ravaged, and still little sign that the situation is coming under control, it has been a very difficult time for Greece.

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