Deadly Greek fires kill at least 20, residents flee homes

admin   •   July 24, 2018   •   2777

 

Greek deadly fires (REUTERS/Costas Baltas)

At least 20 people died and more than 100 were injured on Monday (July 23) as a wildfire swept through a small resort town in eastern Greece with many victims trapped by flames as they fled.

The fire in Mati village, some 29 km (18 miles) east of Athens, was by far the country’s worst since blazes devastated the southern Peloponnese peninsula in August 2007, killing dozens. Monday’s fire was one of several that broke out in the country amid a sweltering heat wave.

Mati is in the Rafina region which is popular with local tourists, particularly pensioners and children at holiday camps. The village was devastated by the fast-moving blaze that started at about 5 p.m (1400 GMT) and caught those unaware in its path.

A Reuters witness saw at least four charred bodies on a narrow road clogged with cars heading to the safe haven of a nearby beach. Dozens of people scrambled into the ocean as the blaze raged close to the shore, and they were picked up by passing boats.

Kostas Laganos, one of several Mati residents who ran into the sea with the fire at their backs and who ducked underwater to escape the flames likened his ordeal to that suffered by the citizens of Pompeii, who suffocated to death when the volcano Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

As darkness fell, the extent of the disaster was impossible to gauge.

Greece issued an urgent appeal for help to tackle fires which raged uncontrolled in several places across the country, destroying homes and disrupting major transport links. Greece said it needed air and land assets from its European Union partners. Cyprus and Spain offered assistance. — Reuters

Greece elects first female head of state

UNTV News   •   January 22, 2020

Katerina Sakellaropoulou, President of Council of State, reacts to the announcement of the result of voting in the parliament electing her as the new President of the Greek Republic, in Athens, Greece, 22 January 2020. EPA-EFE/ORESTIS PANAGIOTOU

By Ana Mora Segura

Athens
– Greece on Wednesday elected a woman head of state for the first time in the country’s history after the male-dominated parliament voted in favor of appointing well-known judge Katerina Sakellaropoulou as president.

She received the backing of 261 lawmakers in the Hellenic chamber, well above the necessary 200, with the support of almost all members of the conservative New Democracy government and the left-wing opposition Syriza and center-left Movement for Change.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said: “Greece enters a new era today, the country enters the third decades of the 21st century with a woman president.”

He described her as a “great personality” who united Greek people.

Although Sakellaropoulouwon a large majority, she couldn’t count on the vote of one of New Democracy’s best knowns faces, former prime minister Andonis Samaras, who was out of the country.

Several names had been mulled for the position of president by Greek media, including Samaras himself.

Parliament’s speaker Konstantinos Tasoulas will formally communicate Sakellaropoulou’s appointment and the new president is expected to take office on 13 March, a day after the first and only term of her predecessor Prokopis Pavlopoulos comes to an end.

In Greece, it is common for leftist governments to propose conservative presidential candidates and vice versa to project an image of institutional consensus.

While never openly campaigning for a political party, Sakellaropoulou is considered as progressive and was the first person to preside over the Greek Council of State after being appointed by the previous Syriza government in 2018.

In addition to the image of institutional cohesion, Mitsotakis achieves three things with his proposed head of state: weakening the narrative from the opposition that he is on the far-right, putting a conservative judge in charge of the Council of State and removing Pavlopoulos from office.

Outgoing presidents are usually chosen for a second term. This is the first time that a government has decided not to propose a candidate from its own ranks.

Sakellaropoulou’s election as president is an indicator of change in a deeply unequal country.

According to the European Union’s agency for equality, Greece has the dubious honor of leading the list in terms of gender disparity.

Only 18 percent of lawmakers and 9 percent of company executives are women, according to the research.

“The time has come for our country to choose a woman as president,” Mitsotakis said when he announced the candidacy. EFE-EPA

am/jt/sh

Australia to cull thousands of wild camels as they search for water

UNTV News   •   January 8, 2020

Sydney — Australian authorities began culling at least 10,000 wild camels Wednesday whose overwhelming population has endangered communities in the desert region as they try to access water amid one of the worst droughts in the country’s history.

Aboriginal areas of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) reserve, “have been unable to manage the scale and number of camels that congregate in dry conditions,” according to a statement from the Department for Environment and Water of South Australia.

An APY executive committee statement said professional snipers teams would shoot the animals in an operation set to last at least five days.

Some 10,000 wild camels approach water sources used by the area’s aboriginal population and damage their infrastructure, endangering families and communities, as well as competing with cattle.

Many of these camels die of thirst or trample each other to access water, according to the statement from the South Australia environmental department.

“The dead animals have contaminated important water sources and cultural sites (which are important for the aboriginal community, as their spirituality is deeply linked to their sacred places),” it added.

APY Lands Manager Richard King told national broadcaster ABC that they would try to kill the camels when they approach water sources.

“It gives us an opportunity to get them while they’re all together, because generally they’ll go and move around the desert in smaller herds. So while they’re all together, it’s a great time to have a cull and clean out some of the animals that are destroying some of our native vegetation,” King said.

According to tracking portal CamelScan, there are about 1.2 million wild camels in Australia, and their population doubles every nine years. According to the portal, these animals live in a area spanning 3.3 million square kilometers and cause more than AU$10 million ($6.8 million) in yearly damages.

It is not the first time Australia kills animals such as camels and horses that aren’t endemic to the country and are often a threat to the ecosystem and native species, generally composed of smaller populations that include few carnivorous animals. EFE-EPA

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‘We can’t keep up’ – Brazil residents battle blazes

UNTV News   •   September 6, 2019

Residents in Brazil’s vast Mato Grosso state were battling blazes spreading in dry brush while Brazil’s military arrived at a remote jungle location to fight the fires that continue to plague the South American nation and threaten the world’s largest rainforest: the Amazon.

As fires spread through dry vegetation and threatened a local farm near Agua Boa in Mato Gross on Wednesday (September 04), local resident Francicles Niatslovs told Reuters a water truck fighting the flames, “but we can’t keep up, its all burning.”

The number of blazes in Brazil has skyrocketed 80% in the year to date compared to the same period in 2018, according to data from space research agency INPE.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s military on Wednesday was aiding efforts to combat the blazes in a remote area of Amazonas state. Military personnel joined firefighters spraying smoldering logs to prevent fires from restarting and spreading.

On August 24, Brazil’s joint military chief said that the country has some 44,000 troops stationed in its northern Amazon region that available to combat forest fires and could send more from elsewhere in the country. (REUTERS)

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