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Planet Ark World Environment News Greek Fire Survivors Mourn Amid Devastation

Date: 29-Aug-07
Country: GREECE
Author: Karolos Grohmann

"I lost my wife in the fire and now I am left with this,"
said Dimos Vlachos, 69, crying as he pointed to the countless
charred stumps that a few days ago were a verdant pine forest
near his home on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece.

The worst fires Greece has ever known destroyed several
villages like Makistos where most of the houses are burnt out
shells, leaving bereaved locals wondering how they will rebuild
their lives and livelihoods.

Intense heat melted the light fittings on the village's
steel street lamps and animal carcasses, including a dead
donkey, lay in the road.

Vlachos managed to save his goat herd as the fire spared his
tiny farm perched above Makistos where his wife was among the
seven killed -- out of a population of just 50.

"My mother died on the side of the street with no one to
help her," Vlachos' daughter Ioanna, 34, said. "We only
recognized her from the steel plates in her leg she had broken
years ago."

"Three other villagers died when they refused to get into a
police car because they wanted to save their donkey," she said.

Her sister-in-law, Maria, holding her two-year-old son in
her hands, wept uncontrollably.

"My boy lost his grandmother. Where is the support for us?
Where are the psychologists that we can talk to? We have been
left alone, forgotten and isolated," she said.

Greece's socialist opposition has called the government
"tragically incapable" in its handling of the unprecedented
national emergency. The fires look sure to be a key issue at a
general election scheduled for Sept. 16.

"I don't know what the future holds for the village. Maybe
it is the end and maybe we will all be forced to move," local
farmer Efstathios Kokalakis, 64, said.

Ironically some of the houses of those who died survived the
flames with their flowerpots intact.

"The flowers can now be picked and used for their owners'
funeral," said Ioanna Vlachou.

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Reuters
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