Israel will send 25 firefighters, along with fire gear, to Greece, to help contain a conflagration that local officials have called an unprecedented disaster not yet under control. The still-raging fires have devastated the country since Friday and led to at least 51 deaths.
The Foreign Ministry said Sunday that the Greek foreign minister had appealed to Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for aid in combating the hundreds of forest fires plaguing the Mediterranaen country.
The Foreign Ministry said Israel would dispatch the firefighters to Greece by civilian aircraft as quickly as possible. It appears that they will leave Monday morning.
Satellite pictures of fires in Greece (Photo: AFP)
The fires, which have swept across Greece's southern Peloponnese region for three days, continue to threaten the region of Kalamata to the south and Pyrgos to the west.
The flames reached within five kilometers (three miles) of the ancient Greek archeological site of Olympia, where authorities have evacuated several nearby villages. Fires have also broken out on Euboea, the second-largest Greek island, north of Athens, where several seaside resorts have been evacuated.
"We are dealing with a national catastrophe, without precedent," said firefighters' spokesman Nikolaos Diamantis, as the country remained under a state of emergency and in national mourning.
More than 1,000 firemen backed by 425 soldiers and 16 water-dropping aircraft are waging the battle against the fires, which have swept through thousands of hectares (acres) destroying homes and ravaging crops and olive groves. No official figures on the damage were yet available.
Firefighters were hopeful Sunday of getting some control now that the strong winds which had fanned the flames have subsided somewhat, and aircraft support has arrived from other European countries, officials said.
Four Canadair water-bombers and some 60 French firefighters were expected to join the operation Sunday as well as an Italian aircraft.
Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a message to the nation on Saturday that action was being was taken "to mobilize all means and all forces" to put out the fires and help those affected.
He pointed the finger at arsonists for starting the fires in areas hit hard by summer droughts and multiple heat waves, and said his government would "do everything in its power to find and punish those responsible."