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Heatwave and blaze take mounting toll on Greece

June 29, 2007

Hundreds of firefighters and troops on Friday battled forest fires on a mountain overlooking Athens as Greece's longest heatwave on record claimed three new victims.

Some 200 firefighters, 300 troops and 14 water-carrying aircraft battled two fire fronts in Mount Parnitha National Park which continued to burn after an overnight conflagration that covered many Athens suburbs in ash.
Blazes were raging in another nine locations around the country, but firefighters were gaining the upper hand in the majority of cases, the fire department said.

"We have never had so many fires (in three days)," said deputy government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros.
The fires broke out after a nine-day heatwave with temperatures of more than 40 C (104 F) described by authorities as the longest recorded in the country yet, and were fanned by strong winds.

Temperatures began rising beyond seasonal levels on June 19 and on June 26 the Athens Observatory recorded 44.8 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) at its Acropolis station, the highest since measurements began there 110 years ago.
"Such weather conditions are unprecedented in over 100 years," Antonaros said.
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