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article imageFire-hit Greece calls off EU help as PM says conditions improve

By AFP     Aug 16, 2017 in Environment

Greece on Wednesday called off a request for European assistance in battling wildfires as Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said firefighters had gained the upper hand in halting a destructive blaze near Athens after three days.

"The worst has been avoided," Tsipras said after flying over the disaster zone northeast of Athens by helicopter, adding that about 3,700 acres (1,500 hectares) of forest and scrubland had been ravaged.

"Fortunately there are no victims... the damage was limited through your superhuman efforts," Tsipras told firefighters.

Authorities said they had finally placed under control a huge wildfire in Kapandriti and Kalamos that had broken out on Monday in an area dotted with vacation homes.

It took nearly 300 firefighters, 100 soldiers, five air bombers and seven helicopters to check its advance.

At least five properties were destroyed, authorities said.

"The situation is better this morning," a fire department source told AFP.

As a result, fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had cancelled a request for European assistance.

"International assistance was deemed unnecessary. The dispatch of firefighters from Cyprus and fire-fighting aircraft has been cancelled," she said.

But Malliri said active fronts remained on the island of Zakynthos and in the western Peloponnese, though the situation was improving there as well.

Greek officials say many of the fires were thought to have been started deliberately.

The fire service said an incendiary device had been found in a forest on the island of Samos on Tuesday.

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