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E.C. sends aid to Greece as fires rage


BRUSSELS, Belgium--The European Commission has organized a rapid response to a request from Greece for help to stamp out more than 120 forest fires that are currently raging throughout the country.

As Northern Europe suffers under dark and wet skies and the United Kingdom struggles to cope with serious flood damage, tinder-dry Greece is fighting the opposite of extreme heat and strong winds.

The most affected regions are Thessaly, Sterea Ellada, Attica, the Peloponnese and the West.

Late Thursday, the Greek government called on the European Community Civil Protection Mechanism for the first time to help out with fire-fighting water-carrying aircraft and helicopters.

The European Commission said that "within minutes" the E.C. body had forwarded the call for help to its network of civil protection authorities in the 27 member states and the three other countries that participate in the Mechanism--Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Within a few hours of the request, several countries had already offered Greece assistance, said the E.C.

Italy has sent two Canadair CL 415 aircraft, and two technicians of the Italian Civil Protection Department were sent to Greece on the night of the request to coordinate on-the-ground needs with local authorities. France has also sent two Canadair CL 415 water bomber aircraft.

Portugal has offered one Canadair CL-215 aircraft that will be ready for departure on June 29.

The E.C. said that Greece has accepted all offers of assistance.