Monday, August 24, 2009


ATHENS (Reuters) - Fire-fighters battled wildfires on Monday that swept through homes and huge swathes of forest near Athens, forcing thousands to flee, and were beating back the main front of the inferno on its fourth day. A dozen Greek, Italian and French fire-fighting planes tried to douse flames fanned by strong early morning winds. "Air forces are operating since early morning and we hope the fire front will be controlled within the day," said Iordanis Louizos, mayor of Nea Makri, a town threatened overnight and on the fire-fighting frontline. The fires had retreated from Athens suburbs late on Sunday, when authorities used loudspeakers to urge thousands to leave their communities. Flames were burning mainly forest land but strong winds were creating flare-ups, authorities said.

The government declared a state of emergency in eastern Attica on Saturday, where the flames seared about 37,000 acres (15,200 hectares) of forest, farm fields and olive groves. Amid weather service warnings of strong winds until Monday evening, help from Greece's European Union allies arrived. Two Italian and a French aircraft, as well as a helicopter and about 40 fire fighters from Cyprus joined the battle. Four helicopters, 187 fire engines and about 430 fire fighters also battled the blaze, fire officials said. Some 300 soldiers were also dispatched. The fire broke out late on Friday in the village of Grammatiko about 40 km (25 miles) northeast of the Greek capital and quickly spread to neighbouring villages. A children's hospital, a home for the elderly and a monastery were evacuated. While thousands abandoned what are mainly holiday homes around Athens, many frantically used garden hoses and tree branches to try to stop the flames reaching their properties. The handling of the fire, the biggest since Greece's worst wildfires in living memory killed 65 people over 10 days in 2007, will be crucial to Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

This world has been compared to dāvāgni, which means "a blazing fire in the forest". In this material existence no one wants unhappiness, but it comes by force. That is the law of material nature. No one wants fire, but wherever we go in a city the fire brigade is always active. There is always fire. Similarly, there are many things that no one wants. No one wants death - there is death. No one wants disease - there is disease. No one wants old age - there is old age. They are there, against our will, against our desire. Thus we should consider the state of this material existence. This human form of life is meant for understanding, not for wasting valuable life like animals by eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. That is not advancement of civilization.

Srila A.C. BV Swami Prabhupada:
"The Science of Self Realization - Chapter V - Practicing Yoga in the Modern Age

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