Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Greece Tames Wildfire Near Athens, Arson Suspected

A firefighting helicopter drops water during a fire that broke out in Varis - Koropiou, eastern Attica, Greece, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
A firefighting helicopter drops water during a fire that broke out in Varis - Koropiou, eastern Attica, Greece, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
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Greece Tames Wildfire Near Athens, Arson Suspected

A firefighting helicopter drops water during a fire that broke out in Varis - Koropiou, eastern Attica, Greece, 19 June 2024. (EPA)
A firefighting helicopter drops water during a fire that broke out in Varis - Koropiou, eastern Attica, Greece, 19 June 2024. (EPA)

Greek firefighters appeared close to containing a wildfire near Athens on Wednesday that forced dozens to flee their homes, and authorities now believe the fire was the result of arson as well as hot, dry conditions.

Traffic was suspended along a main highway connecting Koropi to Athens' southern suburbs, about 30 km (19 miles) south of Athens.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries. A fire service official said the intensity of the blaze had eased but it was not out, noting that high winds carry sparks that can quickly open new fronts.

Civil protection minister Vassilis Kikilias said officials have verified indications that the fire near Athens was the result of arson as well as extreme weather conditions.

He said there is a video and photos of the suspected arsonist and authorities will publish them.

In Koropi, a storage facility and at least one home were burned, and flames crept into a boat dry dock and across fields of dry grass and olive trees. Authorities evacuated two nearby villages.

"I saw a lot of smoke behind our building, it was very close to us. It went around the hill and passed in front of us," local resident Anastasia Papadopoulou told Reuters.

Volunteer and professional firefighters dragged hoses over blackened fields in 35 degree Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) heat.

Much of the area has had no rain for weeks, leaving large areas bone dry. Six firefighting planes, 16 helicopters, dozens of fire engines and more than 150 firefighters were dispatched to the scene, the fire service said.

Several hundred firefighters were deployed to battle more than 60 forest fires across the country, with 16 fires still active, including a big one in Peloponnese. High winds and hot temperatures will extend the risk into Thursday.

"Since noon we had a new fire breaking out almost every 10 minutes," Kikilias said.

After forest fires last year forced 19,000 people to flee the island of Rhodes and killed 20 in the northern mainland, Greece has scaled up its preparations this year by hiring more staff and increasing training.

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean nation, but they have become more devastating as summers have become hotter and drier, which scientists relate to climate change.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : 3 Hikers Die in Utah Parks as Temperatures Hit Triple Digits

(FILES) The view from the Grand View Point Outlook in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah on April 24, 2018. (Photo by Mark Ralston / AFP)
(FILES) The view from the Grand View Point Outlook in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah on April 24, 2018. (Photo by Mark Ralston / AFP)
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3 Hikers Die in Utah Parks as Temperatures Hit Triple Digits

(FILES) The view from the Grand View Point Outlook in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah on April 24, 2018. (Photo by Mark Ralston / AFP)
(FILES) The view from the Grand View Point Outlook in the Canyonlands National Park near Moab, Utah on April 24, 2018. (Photo by Mark Ralston / AFP)

Three hikers died over the weekend in suspected heat-related cases at state and national parks in Utah, including a father and daughter who got lost on a strenuous hike in Canyonlands National Park in triple-digit temperatures.
The daughter, 23, and her father, 52, sent a 911 text alerting dispatchers that they were lost and had run out of water while hiking the 8.1 miles (13 kilometers) Syncline Loop, described by the National Park Service as the most challenging trail in the Island in the Sky district of the southeast Utah park. The pair set out Friday to navigate steep switchbacks and scramble through boulder fields with limited trail markers as the air temperature surpassed 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius).
Park rangers and a helicopter crew with the Bureau of Land Management began their search for the lost hikers in the early evening Friday, but found them already dead. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office identified them on Monday as Albino Herrera Espinoza and his daughter, Beatriz Herrera, of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Due to the jagged terrain, safety officials used a helicopter to airlift the bodies out of the park and to the state medical examiner on Saturday morning, according to the sheriff's office. Their deaths are being investigated as heat-related by the local sheriff and the National Park Service, The Associated Press reported.
Later Saturday, first responders in southwest Utah responded to a call about two hikers “suffering from a heat related incident” at Snow Canyon State Park, which is known for its lava tubes, sand dunes and a canyon carved from red and white Navajo Sandstone.
A multi-agency search team found and treated two hikers who were suffering from heat exhaustion. While they were treating those individuals, a passing hiker informed them of an unconscious person nearby. First responders found the 30-year-old woman dead, public safety officials said.
Her death is being investigated by the Santa Clara-Ivins Public Safety Department. She has not been identified publicly.
Tourists continue to flock to parks in Utah and other southwestern states during the hottest months of the year, even as officials caution that hiking in extreme heat poses serious health risks.
A motorcyclist died earlier this month in Death Valley National Park in eastern California, and another motorcyclist was taken to a hospital for severe heat illness. Both were part of a group that rode through the Badwater Basin area amid scorching weather.
The air temperature in Death Valley reached at least 125 degrees Fahrenheit (52 degrees Celsius) for nine consecutive days July 4-12 — the park’s longest streak at or above that temperature since the early 1900s, the National Park Service announced Monday. Now, parts of the park are experiencing a multiday power outage triggered by a thunderstorm as temperatures continue to linger just above 120 degrees Fahrenheit (49 degrees Celsius).
Late last month, a Texas man died while hiking in Grand Canyon National Park, where summer temperatures on exposed parts of the trails can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Elsewhere on Monday, authorities said a 61-year-old man was found dead inside his motor home in eastern Washington state. The man likely died Wednesday when the temperature in the area reached 108 degrees Fahrenheit (42 degrees Celsius), Franklin County Coroner Curtis McGary said.
Authorities also suspected heat in the death of an 81-year-old man Saturday in Oregon but have released no further details. His death brings the state's tally of suspected heat-related deaths to 17 since the July 4 weekend, The Oregonian/Oregonlive.com reported.