Thirteen arrests after fireworks from yacht allegedly spark forest fire on Greek island

A photo shared by Greece’s seasonal firefighters (Facebook/ Epoxikoi Pirovestes)
A photo shared by Greece’s seasonal firefighters (Facebook/ Epoxikoi Pirovestes)

Thirteen people have been arrested by Greek authorities after fireworks launched from a yacht allegedly sparked a forest fire on the island of Hydra.

Firefighters brought the blaze - which burned part of the island's only pine forest in the remote area of Bisti - under control early on Saturday.

Thirteen yacht crew members and passengers were due to appear before a prosecutor on Sunday, the fire department said in a press release.

It did not identify the yacht or the individuals.

"The arrests come after allegations that the forest fire was sparked by fireworks launched from the yacht on Friday night," an official with knowledge of the issue told news agency Reuters.

The official said the people were arrested at a marina in the Athens area.

Hydra, southwest of Athens in the Saronic Gulf, is popular among foreign visitors and those travelling on yachts.

"We are outraged," Hydra Mayor George Koukoudakis told state TV. "If it's true, it is something that really saddens me."

Hundreds of firefighters struggled on Saturday to contain wildfires fanned by gale force winds on two Greek islands and in southern parts of the country’s mainland, as authorities warned many regions face a high risk of new blazes.

More than 30 firefighters backed by two aircraft and five helicopters were battling a wildfire burning on the island of Andros in the Aegean, away from tourist resorts, where four communities were evacuated as a precaution.

"More firefighters (are) expected on the island later in the day," a fire services official told Reuters, adding there were no reports of damage or injuries.

Wildfires are common in Greece but they have become more devastating in recent years amid hotter and drier summers that scientists link to climate change.

A wildfire near Athens last week forced dozens to flee their homes, which authorities said they believed was the result of arson as well as the hot, dry conditions.

Meteorologists say the latest fires are the first time that the country has experienced "hot-dry-windy" conditions so early in the summer.

"I can't remember another year facing such conditions so early, in early and mid-June," meteorologist Thodoris Giannaros told state TV.

On Friday, a 55-year-old man died in hospital after being injured in a blaze in the region of Ilia on Greece's Peloponnese peninsula, as several fires burned on Greece's southern tip.

Several hundred firefighters have been deployed to battle more than 70 forest fires across the country since Friday. High winds and hot temperatures will extend the risk into Sunday, the fire service said.

Earlier on Saturday, firefighters tamed a forest fire on the island of Salamina, in the Saronic Gulf west of Athens, and another about 30 kilometres east of the capital.

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 stepping up training.