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John Stathatos


A fire broke which broke out near Aghia Sophia cave towards the middle of Tuesday, 17 July, spread rapidly northwards, tearing through the unusually dry scrub on the northern and western flanks of Mount Mermingaris. By 1.00 am of Wednesday, the entire north of the mountain was alight, and the flames could be seen as far afield as Livadi. Extra fire crews were rushed to the island from the mainland, but a stiff NE wind and the absence of firebreaks meant they were unable to stop the spread of the fire. The wind dropped during the night but picked up again in the morning, and the fire has not to date been brought under full control, continuing it on a north-westerly course towards Myrtidia.

The wild cedar forest of Aghia Sophia is said to have been entirely destroyed; fortunately, the lush vegetation and plane trees of the Mylopotamos valley, including the gorge leading down to the old watermills, are still (for the moment) safe.

The cause of the fire is unknown and will almost certainly remain so, but can with some certainty be ascribed to arson. Earlier this year a series of smaller fires were repeatedly set in the hills around the village of Kalamos in what was undoubtedly arson by one or more locals, possibly in the misguided belief that this would either improve hunting, or else make it easier for hunters to make their way through the brushwood. The Mylopotamos fire, however, is most likely connected to the desire to “develop” real estate along the still underdeveloped west coat on the island.

Like the rest of Greece, Kythera has for years been plagued by repeated acts of criminal arson which invariably go unpunished. As was recently emphasised in the national press following the devastating forest fire which destroyed the evergreen forest of Parnitha, just north of Athens, it is essential too make sure that illegal building (or building made technically legal with bribery) does not follow the arsonists – something which will require constant vigilance by individuals and environmental organisations no less than the municipality. MAJOR FIRE AT MYLOPOTAMOS (18 July 2007) - Fire 1 MAJOR FIRE AT MYLOPOTAMOS (18 July 2007) - Fire 3

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