- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2007

ATHENS (AP) — Fires raged in several southern European nations yesterday, burning through villages, forests and farmland and stretching firefighting services to the limit, even as a weeklong heat wave blamed for dozens of deaths began to abate.

The fires were blamed for at least three deaths overnight in Greece, where hundreds of firefighters and soldiers tackled 100 blazes, 15 of which were burning out of control.

A regional heat wave has fueled the blazes, but temperatures began to dip yesterday, falling from 113 degrees to a predicted high of 102 degrees in Athens and to about 86 degrees in Serbia. Romania, where 33 deaths were blamed on the heat wave, also saw temperatures fall from 106 degrees to 88 degrees. Cooler weather was predicted until Sunday, after which the heat was expected to spike again.

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appealed to Russia for help, and Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would send firefighting planes today, the prime minister’s office said. It did not give details on how many Russian aircraft would be sent.

The country’s largest blaze, near the town of Aegio, killed three elderly persons, authorities said. Several areas declared emergencies and numerous houses were destroyed.

To the north in Serbia, several fires were destroying hundreds of acres of forest and brushland. A Russian firefighting plane and Serbian military planes were called in to help, police spokesman Predrag Maric said.

In Bosnia, several small fires spiraled out of control, and a state of emergency was declared yesterday in the southeastern town of Stolac.

Firefighters were confronted with a 37-mile-long line of fire that developed from 12 smaller fires during the day, officials said. Several villages were evacuated, while army helicopters and firefighters from other cities were called in.

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