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Fireworks From Yacht Ignite Forest Fire on Greek Island, Leading to 13 Arrests

Thirteen individuals have been arrested in connection with a forest fire on the Greek island of Hydra, which authorities believe was sparked by fireworks launched from a yacht. The fire, which began on Friday, has led to widespread outrage in Greece, a country already battling numerous wildfires amidst its first heatwave of the year.

The blaze on Hydra devastated the island’s sole pine forest, an area notoriously difficult to access. Firefighters faced significant challenges, as they had to reach the fire by sea and rely on helicopters to drop water due to the lack of roads leading to the affected area. Hydra, located southwest of Athens in the Saronic Gulf, is a popular destination for foreign visitors and yacht travelers.

Hydra's firefighting team, in a Facebook post, confirmed that the fire was caused by fireworks launched from a boat. "The latest blaze burned the only pine forest on the island in a place that is difficult to access and has no road," the team stated.

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Greek authorities announced the arrest of 13 Greek citizens on Saturday. These individuals, apprehended at a marina in the Athens area, are scheduled to appear before prosecutors on Sunday.

The incident has fueled widespread anger in Greece, which is grappling with multiple wildfires amid high temperatures, strong winds, and dry conditions that are expected to persist throughout the summer. Over the past 24 hours alone, officials reported 64 forest and brush fires across the country.

Hydra’s mayor, Giorgos Koukoudakis, expressed his outrage over the reckless actions that led to the fire. "We are indignant that some people so irresponsibly throw fireworks into a pine forest," Koukoudakis told Greek broadcaster ERT.

In a related incident, a 55-year-old volunteer firefighter died from injuries sustained while fighting a fire in the Ilia region of the Peloponnese peninsula. This tragic event underscores the dangers faced by those combating the numerous wildfires plaguing Greece.

Scientists have warned that human-caused fossil fuel emissions are exacerbating the frequency and intensity of heatwaves worldwide, contributing to the severe conditions that facilitate wildfires. Additionally, arson remains a significant problem in Greece. Last August, 79 people were arrested for arson. In response, Greece has increased penalties for both deliberate and negligent arson, introducing fines of up to 200,000 euros and jail sentences of up to 20 years.

The Hydra fire and the broader wildfire crisis highlight the urgent need for vigilance and responsible behavior to prevent further devastation in Greece and other fire-prone regions.

June 23, 2024 12:51 p.m. 432

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