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Greece fires may have been started by property developers

Has Greece been set alight by property developers?

Rogue property developers have been accused of starting the forest fires that continue to destroy large swathes of Greece.

Police have arrested 33 suspects amid claims that some were paid by developers to get round planning laws.

Building on woodland is forbidden but there is no official land register, so once a region has been burned and cleared it could be used for construction.

Last night, as the death toll rose to 63, the Greek government put up a million-euro (680,000) reward to help catch the fire-starters.

The remains of one woman were found with her arms wrapped around the charred bodies of her four children.

They might have survived had she stayed in the home which she fled, for it was the only property left untouched by the flames in the village of Artemida in the western Peloponnese.

The house's white walls and red tile roof were unscathed. Two British girls have spoken of the terrifying moment they ran for their lives from the devastating forest fires raging through Greece.

Rebecca Bat chelor and Florence Huntley, both from Barnet, fled to the beach as the flames closed in on their campsite - and they feared they would both be burned alive.

Nursery nurse Rebecca said: "It was so hot it felt like our skin was melting. It was hell. We were so frightened. We could see the fire tearing down the mountains getting closer.

"The smoke was unbearable. The flames were 20 metres high and we knew the safest place was on the beach so we could swim out if the fire hit."

Florence, a mortgage advisor, said they were engulfed by thick smoke while burning ash rained down on them.

She added: "The air suddenly filled with smoke. We could hear pine trees cracking. We ran back to the campsite but were told it wasn't safe.

The pair were eventually given a lift to Kyparissia, where they slept on the beach for two days.

At the same time a leading prosecutor has ordered an inquiry into whether the arsonists can be charged as terrorists and so face stiffer penalties.

Fuelled by strong, hot winds and parched grass and trees, the fires have engulfed whole villages, killing people as they tried to flee on foot and in their cars.

Some drowned as they tried to swim from the onrushing flames.

New fires broke out faster than others could be brought under control in the tinderbox countryside and almost 100 separate blazes started in less than 24 hours.

Greece's European partners, including Britain, have offered aid.

Water-bombing aircraft from France, Italy and Canada were helping to douse flames as the fires show no sign of abating after four days.

While suspicion in the national press points to unscrupulous property developers, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has said that most fires appeared to be deliberate arson, "a concerted attack" on Greece.

His remarks were interpreted as referring to anything from foreign provocateurs to local anarchists and terrorists.


Daily Mail, "Has Greece been set alight by property developers?", 28 August 2007.
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"The Insider" mailing list article, 28 August 2007.

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Tags: Greece, fires, property developers, real estate, land, Greek, wild-fires, forest-fire, arson, arrested, suspects, arrests, , conspiracy theories.

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