Russia Helps Greece Big Time
(Republished For Fair Use And Educational Purposes)
Ulsterman escapes fires in Greece
[Published: Wednesday 29, August 2007 - 07:38]
By Victoria O'Hara
An Ulsterman living in Greece last night told how his home was saved from one of the raging forest fires which have swept across the country, claiming more than 60 lives.
Dr David Green (63), who is originally from Belfast, said Russian pilots in firefighting helicopters managed to control a massive blaze which broke out on a mountain opposite his Athens apartment.
Hundreds of forest fires have devastated parts of Greece and killed at least 63 people.
The Greek government declared a state of emergency over the weekend as fires, fanned by hot, gusting winds, continued to break out around the country.
"Our home is opposite Mount Hymettos and that was hit two days ago," Dr Green, a former lecturer, told the Belfast Telegraph.
"The whole of our area was covered in smoke.
"There were huge Russian helicopters which came to help. They were passing our window about every half an hour."
Dr Green said the firefighting aircraft skimmed the sea, lapping up water, before dropping it on the flames.
"Luckily our home wasn't damaged.
"That was the nearest it came to us.
He added: "It was frightening, and it has been pretty horrendous."
Dr Green, who moved to Greece in 1994, said he and his wife, Flora, are concerned about future fires.
"We are actually about 50ft from a forest ourselves.
"Obviously we are very, very concerned.
"But we are a bit more reassured after my wife contacted the local mayor's office and the small forest is patrolled every night by police now.
"If it catches fire we are in real trouble. But we feel a good bit safer," he said.
However the former principal of Antrim Technical College revealed the blazes have had a huge ecological impact.
"There are just tragic sights of sheep and goat carcasses lying burnt out," he said. "There was a deer in the nearby forest with no food because all the forest has been burnt out.
"Undoubtedly this will have a huge ecological effect.
"The local people are in a state of shock, in fear, and afraid to move.
"Athens itself, and the surrounding hills are all forested. It would break your heart to see what has happened to the beautiful pine trees."
However, Dr Green has dismissed suggestions that the cause of the fires is terrorism.
"There are conspiracy theories that it was terrorists, but I frankly don't believe that it was.
"I think there are some unscrupulous developers who are involved, together with extremely hot weather, high winds, and common garden rubbish, such as discarded tins and bottles."
Dr Green added that he has been "touched" by messages from concerned relatives and friends about his safety.
"Both myself and my wife have been lucky, but Greece is now in deep shock and even deeper mourning."
A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale struck the fire-ravaged area in the south of Greece yesterday, panicking residents, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.
© Belfast Telegraph