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  1. #41
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    Officials evacuate six campgrounds in southern France as forest
    fire spreads
    TOULON, France (AP) - Authorities evacuated six campgrounds in
    southern France as a precaution Tuesday as firefighters battled a
    large forest fire that officials said appeared to have been the
    work of arsonists.
    The blaze destroyed 1,300 hectares (3,200 acres) as of late
    afternoon Tuesday, regional officials said. No injuries were
    reported, and officials said no homes or businesses were
    immediately threatened.
    About 300 firefighters were using conventional equipment and
    water-dropping helicopters in an attempt to contain the fire near
    Puget-sur-Argens, authorities said.
    Officials braced for possible power outages as the fire
    approached a high-voltage line supplying electricity to much of the
    region.

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  2. #42
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    Firefighters control forest blaze near Athens
    ATHENS, Greece (AP) - A forest fire on the outskirts of the
    Greek capital was brought under control Monday after a two-hour
    operation involving 100 firefighters.
    The blaze started around midday (0900GMT) in the Dardiza area of
    Mount Parnitha, northern Athens, and burnt more than three hectares
    (7 acres) of forest and scrub. Four water-dropping aircraft and two
    helicopters took part in the effort.
    No injuries were reported. State-controlled NET Television said
    that around 30 houses were briefly threatened. The fire's cause was
    not immediately known.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

    APTV 07-18-05 1037EDT
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  3. #43
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    Drought sweeps all of Portugal, bites economy
    LISBON, July 20 (Reuters) - Portugal, gripped by its worst
    drought in at least 60 years, sent hundreds of firefighters to
    battle blazes across the country on Wednesday and warned of
    economic fallout to the parched agricultural sector.
    Secretary of state for the environment, Humberto Rosa, said
    severe and extreme drought extended to the whole country,
    costing the agricultural sector the equivalent of nearly 1.5
    percent of gross domestic product.
    With 26,000 people were reportedly receiving water from
    trucks as of July 15, Rosa also outlined plans to teach the rest
    of the country water conservation.
    "Every Portuguese person will receive a post-card at home,
    advising them of the risks of drought and the necessity to
    conserve (water)," Rosa said in an interview with newspaper
    Jornal de Negocios.
    The drought is Portugal's worst since at least 1945, when 86
    percent of the territory was in severe or extreme drought.
    Spain is also suffering its worst drought since records
    began in the 1940s, and in western France, water levels are at
    their lowest since the major drought of 1976.
    Parched conditions now stretch from north Africa to the
    French capital, and 11 firefighters died in Spain on Sunday
    fighting a forest fire, possibly caused by a barbeque.
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  4. #44
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    Post July 21st

    LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Firefighters battling a major two-day
    blaze in a forest in central Portugal were unable to call on air
    support Thursday due to thick black smoke, officials said.
    Around 300 firefighters were being helped by army troops using
    bulldozers to cut firebreaks in parched woodland near Seia, about
    250 kilometers (150 miles) north of Lisbon.
    Officials said high winds and the region's hilly terrain
    hindered efforts to halt the fire's advance.
    The Civil Protection Service said five forest fires were out of
    control early Thursday and more than half the country was on
    maximum alert as inland temperatures were forecast to exceed 40
    degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) for a second consecutive day.
    The Civil Protection Service said it had deployed more than
    1,700 firefighters nationwide.
    Portugal is enduring its worst drought on record.
    Emergency services found the charred body of an elderly man near
    his forest home Wednesday. He apparently was caught by flames as he
    tried to flee.
    Some remote houses burned down and several remote villages were
    evacuated as a precaution.
    Numerous vineyards, orchards and eucalyptus plantations were
    blackened by the fires, authorities said.

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  5. #45
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    Default July 28th morning update

    ATHENS, July 28 (Reuters) - A forest fire near Athens'
    seaside suburbs burnt down homes and factories and threatened
    more damage as strong winds drove it towards heavily inhabited
    coastal areas on Thursday.
    Officials said authorities in eastern Athens evacuated
    houses, summer camps and orphanages as the blaze approached.
    Arsonists are believed to have started the fire, which swept
    through a thick pine forest near the eastern suburb of Rafina
    and gathered speed, fanned by strong northern winds. A second
    fire started nearby hours later.
    "It certainly seems to be arson," a fire brigade spokesman
    told Reuters.
    Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, whose private
    residence is near the site of the fire, met fire officials and
    inspected operations in the area.
    Hundreds of residents armed with waterhoses and buckets
    tried desperately to save their homes as 15-metre (45-feet)
    flames raced toward them.
    "This is arson. They are destroying everything I built my
    whole life," a resident of Rafina told reporters in tears. "I
    now see my house burning down.
    Deputy fire brigade chief Andreas Kois said hundreds of
    firefighters rushed to the scene but strong winds hindered them.
    "Everything is working against us. The wind is very strong
    and the fire is spreading too fast for us to fight it," Kois
    told reporters.
    He could not say whether the fire hurt anyone or how many
    homes it damaged.
    More than 250 firefighters and soldiers, 50 fire trucks,
    eight airplanes and six helicopters have fought the blaze since
    Thursday morning.
    More troops from around the country were called in to help.
    The wealthy area, about 30 km (18.6 miles) east of the city
    centre, is scattered with small, lush suburbs and thousands of
    holiday homes on or close to the sea.
    Athens International airport, which lies some 10 km away,
    shut its western runway and redirected all flights to its
    eastern runway to help air firefighting operations.
    (additional reporting by Tatiana Frangou)
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    Default

    American, Tom Robinson, of Global
    Emergency Response, was personally
    present and did fly on missions
    in Greece on the IL-76 waterbomber
    where all other nations' aircraft
    (5) were wind-grounded.

    The aircraft was called a miracle
    and the aircraft that saved Greece
    in the local media.

  7. #47
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    Post July 31st

    Firefighters put out blaze near seaside resort west of Athens
    ATHENS, Greece (AP) - Firefighters put out a blaze Sunday in a
    pine forest near a seaside resort west of Athens, authorities said.
    Eight water-dropping planes, six helicopters and 60 fire trucks
    were used to battle the fire, which broke out at Ayioi Theodori, 64
    kilometers (40 miles) west of the capital.
    Fire department officials said three neighborhoods on the
    outskirts of the popular resort were evacuated, but no houses were
    damaged and no injuries were reported.
    It was not immediately clear how much of the forest had been
    affected.
    Last week, fires ravaged forests across Greece as temperatures
    hovered at 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit). Greece's Civil
    Protection Authority had issued weekend fire warnings for most of
    southern Greece, including areas around Athens.
    On Thursday, a fire burnt 60 homes and large swathes of pine
    forest in the eastern Athens suburb of Rafina.

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  8. #48
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    Default August 3rd

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - Indonesia struggled Thursday to
    contain fires in central Sumatra that have shrouded large parts of
    neighboring Malaysia in thick white haze.
    Forest fires and blazes set by local farmers were burning out of
    control in four provinces, said Firman, a Meteorological and
    Geophysics Agency official, identifying more than 150 hotspots.
    The sky was dark in parts of central Sumatra, but strong winds
    have for the last three days carried much of the smoke across the
    Malacca Straits and into Malaysia, he said.
    "We are very sorry about this," said Firman, who goes by only
    one name, adding that government workers have been focusing most of
    their attention on hardest hit Riau province.
    The other blazes were in the provinces of North Sumatra, Jambi
    and Kalimantan.
    Forests have been razed in several districts of Kalimantan, said
    Zainul Arifin, a local forestry affairs official. He said many of
    the fires were lit by farmers to clear land.
    Forest fires often break out in the region during dry spells
    because of illegal land-clearing fires or carelessly discarded
    cigarettes.
    Southeast Asian countries including Malaysia and Indonesia
    experienced theirs worst air quality levels in 1997, when brush
    fires in Indonesia destroyed some 10 million hectares (25 million
    acres) of vegetation, cloaking much of Southeast Asia with haze.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  9. #49
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    Post Portugal and Spain August 4th

    LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Strong winds and sweltering temperatures
    fueled some 20 wildfires across drought-stricken Portugal on
    Thursday as the number of firefighters on duty nearly doubled
    compared to the previous day, authorities said.
    The day began with 10 major blazes and the number doubled by
    mid-afternoon as temperatures soared above 40 C (104 F). Nearly
    1,600 firefighters tackled the blazes, patrolled high-risk areas or
    cleaned up scorched areas, the Civil Protection Service said.
    They were supported by 457 vehicles and nearly two dozen planes
    and helicopters dropping water. On Wednesday, about 900
    firefighters were on duty.
    Flames engulfed about a dozen rural houses, including several
    holiday homes, officials said.
    Most fires were in heavily wooded areas of northern Portugal. A
    smoky haze from the fires covered Porto, the country's
    second-largest city, television images showed.
    Temperatures in some regions were forecast to reach 45 C (113
    F), the weather service said.
    The Fire Prevention Agency placed most of Portugal on maximum
    alert as the country endures its worst drought on record. The heat
    wave is expected to continue through Saturday.
    Fires have charred more than 68,000 hectares (168,000 acres) of
    parched woodland this year, more than half of it last month,
    according to the General-Directorate for Forests.
    In neighboring Spain on Thursday firefighters battled to
    extinguish a forest blaze a few kilometers (miles) from the
    northern city of Pamplona.
    The regional government of Navarra said three helicopters and
    five planes were brought in to tackle the fire on the Monte San
    Cristobal, north of the city.
    Seven elderly residents were evacuated as a precaution from the
    small village of Garrues, but authorities said it was no longer at
    risk by early evening. There was no word on the cause of the fire.
    Spain is experiencing its driest summer since record-keeping
    began in the 1940s and has seen a spate of forest fires.
    Last month, a blaze apparently sparked by a barbecue fire killed
    11 firefighters and destroyed more than 11,000 hectares (27,000
    acres) of woodland in a nature reserve east of Madrid.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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    New fires ravage France's Var region

    PARIS, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- Fires scorched bone-dry parts of France, with flames moving across the Var region Friday.


    Fire fighters were stymied in their efforts to battle the flames by a World War II-era powder magazine.

    The latest fire, which broke out Thursday afternoon, appeared to be under control by the evening. But high winds Friday morning fanned it back, and the fire burned some 500 acres.

    Complicating the battle is the grounding of Canadair planes used to fight the fire. The aircraft's used was halted after a Monday Canadair crash that killed two pilots.

    Officials have evacuated some 1,700 people from a camp site in the Var region out of precaution.

    Fires have also ravaged areas of the Bouches-du-Rhones and Auron, in southern France.

    France and other parts of western Europe have been hit by unusually hot and dry conditions this summer.

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    Forest fires continue to rage in Russia's Far East region

    www.chinaview.cn 2005-08-07 17:45:43


    MOSCOW, Aug. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- About 116,000 hectares of forest have already been destroyed as 33 forest fires are raging in Russia's Far East region, said the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations.

    Amurskaya obl. and Khabarovsk, where 15 fires are within 10 km to people's living areas, have been the worst hit by the fires.

    In addition, the blazes have also charred 77,000 hectares of non-forest land in the region. Up till now, the area of woodland ravaged by fires in the Far East region is five times larger than that in the corresponding period of last year.

    More than 300 firefighters as well as 14 planes and helicoptershave so far been mobilized to tackle the fires, said officials of Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations.

    Wildfires break out in Russian's Far East region each year but fires of this year are particularly damaging to the eco-system. Experts pointed out that the primitive taiga having been destroyedthis year would need at least 500 years to recover completely. Enditem

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    9:01 am: Two dead in Spanish forest fire as country suffers hottest weather this year



    By ASSOCIATED PRESS
    August 7, 2005

    MADRID, Spain - Two firefighters died as at least 10 forest fires swept across tinder dry landscapes amid soaring summer temperatures across Spain, officials said Sunday.

    The pilot of a small firefighting plane died when his aircraft crashed into trees Saturday as he attempted to spray water on the flames and a land-based fireman was later crushed by falling rocks as he worked to help control a blaze, police said.

    Many of the fires may have been started intentionally, leading Agriculture Minister, Elena Espinosa, to call for "greater responsibility," without elaborating.

    "Many of our forests now face a difficult road to recovery," Espinosa told reporters.

    Spain is in the grip of its worst drought in over 60 years with many rivers, lakes and reservoirs at less than 20 percent of their capacity.

    Temperatures reached 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit), the hottest this year, in several southern regions on Saturday and were likely to stay there for at least one more day the national weather center said.

    Some fear Spain see a repeat of the high summer temperatures seen in 2003, when 19,000 people died across Europe.

  13. #53
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    Post Spain-LODDs

    Two dead in Spanish forest fire as country suffers hottest weather
    this year
    MADRID, Spain (AP) - Two firefighters died as at least 10 forest
    fires swept across tinder dry landscapes amid soaring summer
    temperatures across Spain, officials said Sunday.
    The pilot of a small firefighting plane died when his aircraft
    crashed into trees Saturday as he attempted to spray water on the
    flames and a land-based fireman was later crushed by falling rocks
    as he worked to help control a blaze, police said.
    Many of the fires may have been started intentionally, leading
    Agriculture Minister, Elena Espinosa, to call for "greater
    responsibility," without elaborating.
    "Many of our forests now face a difficult road to recovery,"
    Espinosa told reporters.
    Spain is in the grip of its worst drought in over 60 years with
    many rivers, lakes and reservoirs at less than 20 percent of their
    capacity.
    Temperatures reached 42 Celsius (107.6 Fahrenheit), the hottest
    this year, in several southern regions on Saturday and were likely
    to stay there for at least one more day the national weather center
    said.
    Some fear Spain see a repeat of the high summer temperatures
    seen in 2003, when 19,000 people died across Europe.

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    Post France August 7th

    HYERES, France (AP) - Hundreds of firefighters battled blazes in
    two areas of southern France on Sunday that forced the evacuation
    of campsites and temporarily cut electricity in 50,000 homes, fire
    officials said.
    Strong winds fueled the fires, which burned through forested
    areas close to the towns of Hyeres, in the Var region of southern
    France, and Manosque, further to the north in the foothills of the
    Alps.
    Authorities in the Var were forced to cut high-tension lines
    that affected homes in Hyeres and two nearby towns, as some 300
    firefighters battled blazes that had burned through 50 hectares
    (125 acres) of forest, fire officials said.
    Three campsites of vacationers were evacuated near the town of
    Manosque in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region, regional official
    Mohamed Saadallah told LCI television.
    The blazes came as French firefighters brought into use a new
    type of water-dropping plane - the Dash-8 - after suspending use of
    Canadair planes following the death of two firefighters in Corsica
    last week.
    Concern about seasonal summer fires in southern France has been
    heightened this year because of a severe drought affecting much of
    southern Europe. Wildfires have burned more than 68,000 hectares
    (168,000 acres) of woodland this year in Portugal.

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    Two people die as 'deliberate' forest fires ravage Spain



    8 August 2005

    MADRID – Two people have died in the struggle to put out forest fires which are ravaging parts of Spain.

    Francisco Javier Tirado Rodriguez, 29, died on Saturday helping to fight a blaze started that day in Casavieja in Ávila. Rodriguez, who is well-known in his home town for his work protecting the environment, was hit by rocks which became loose during the fire.

    On Monday, officials said the fire had destroyed an estimated 800 hectares of forest and was believed to have been started deliberately.

    On Sunday, in Galicia, in Orense, Antonio Diaz, 50, died as he piloted a plane spraying water over an area engulfed in flames.

    On Monday, more than 27 fires were stillburning throughout the country, many started during the weekend which experts had warned would be especially hot and dry.

    Fire fighters in the province Castilla y Leon were tackling 11 fires which had destroyed some 4,100 hectares, with the most serious being highlighted as that at Avila and a second in La Cabrera in Leon, which had destroyed 3,100 hectares.

    The farming and fishing minister Elena Espinosa, who visited the family of Rodriguez to give her condolences, called for people to behave responsibly. She pointed out that the vast majority of the forest fires this summer have been started deliberately and stressed "the majority of the burnt woods will be difficult to restore".

    For her part, the environment minister Cristina Narbora admitted that the government needed to do more to tackle forest fires.

    "The government isn't satisfied with how it has acted," she said. "However, it isn't resigned; it's committed."

    There were "many faults to be addressed," she added. However, the minister said the conservatives were wrong to accuse the socialist government of "letting people die" and "little short of involuntary homicide".

    "There hasn't been a single year in history when there has been so little rain," she said, adding that those circumstances made exceptional measures necessary. The minister said she would consider vetting local festivals which used fireworks and bonfires, in addition to the ban the government has already introduced on smoking and lighting bonfires in certain zones.

    Narbora said she still felt bitterness, anxiety and powerlessness when she thought of the 11 volunteer firefighters who lost their lives in the Guadalajara fire last month.

    She pointed out that during the conservative PP government's eight years in power, more than a million hectares were destroyed in forest fires and 32 people died.

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    Post August 9th

    Spanish firefighters continue battle against wildfire in south
    MADRID, Spain (AP) - Firefighters battled a three-day-old
    wildfire Wednesday in a national park in southern Spain, helped by
    water-dropping aircraft and firebreaks.
    Authorities estimate that the fire in the Sierra de Cazorla area
    of Jaen province - along with two others in the same region that
    have been brought under control - has burned some 4,000 hectares
    (9,900 acres) of woodland.
    Thirty-eight firefighting aircraft were working to smother the
    fire, the state-run news agency Efe reported.
    Firebreaks set up Tuesday on three sides of the blaze were
    helping halt the flames. Some 1,000 people have been evacuated from
    the area as a precaution.
    The fire, believed to have been sparked by lightning, started
    late Sunday.
    Spain is experiencing its driest summer since record-keeping
    began in the 1940s, and has seen more than 50,000 hectares (123,550
    acres) of woodland ruined by about 5,000 forest fires so far this
    year.

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    Post August 10th

    By ANGELA DOLAND
    Associated Press Writer
    PARIS (AP) - They're the daredevils of Europe's skies: pilots
    who swoop through blinding smoke, soaring flames and bone-jarring
    turbulence to drop water onto summer wildfires that rip through
    parched forests.
    On Thursday, the pilots of France's fleet of Canadair
    water-dumping planes will return to the skies after a 10-day
    grounding at the height of fire season - restoring firefighters
    with one of their most powerful weapons.
    The planes were grounded Aug. 1 when two Canadair CL 415 pilots
    plunged to their deaths on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
    Though the cause of the crash is still not clear, safety experts
    have checked all 10 remaining planes in the fleet and pronounced
    them fit to fly, the Interior Ministry said in a statement
    Wednesday.
    The temporary loss of the Canadairs put extra pressure on
    firefighters on the ground. The Canadair fleet is the main airborne
    firefighting force in France. Without them, firefighters were left
    with just water-carrying helicopters and other planes that are best
    suited to combatting small fires.
    This weekend, French authorities brought in more than 1,000
    firefighters and 250 vehicles from around the country to help
    combat Mediterranean fires, said civil defense spokesman Lt. Col.
    Eric Soupra.
    Without the Canadairs to douse the flames, "fires are more
    virulent, and you need to take all possible security measures,"
    Soupra said in a telephone interview.
    In southern Europe, forests are too small and too populated to
    employ the North American technique of letting fires burn out
    naturally. Despite the massive efforts, fires burn throughout the
    summer here, sometimes spreading to homes, disrupting transport
    links and forcing the evacuations of people from houses and camp
    sites under threat.
    The European Union's head office said Wednesday that this year
    was on track for an increase in fires across Europe - comparable to
    the disastrous 2003 season. Then, 40 people were killed and 740,000
    hectares (1.8 million acres) - an area almost equivalent to Corsica
    - of forests burned.
    For firefighters, this summer has already been deadly.
    In Spain, which is suffering through the driest summer since
    record-keeping began in the 1940s, a blaze apparently sparked by a
    barbecue fire killed 11 firefighters last month.
    Also in Spain, the pilot of a small Polish-made Dromader M-18
    water-carrying plane crashed into trees Saturday as he attempted to
    douse a fire near the Portuguese border. His death, and the death
    of the two French pilots, has drawn attention to the daring flyers
    who risk their lives.
    France's Canadair pilots are the creme de la creme of aviation:
    Most are former fighter pilots, stunt flyers or members of the
    French aircraft carrier fleet.
    Ludovic Piasentin, one of the men killed in Corsica, was a
    former fighter pilot who had racked up more than 10,000 flight
    hours. His co-pilot, Jean-Louis de Benedict, was a longtime Air
    Force flight engineer who got his pilot's wings in 1995.
    Canadairs - squat, round-nosed planes that look something like a
    flying boat - fill their 6,137-liter (1,595-gallon) tanks by
    landing on lakes, oceans and rivers and scooping up water. Pilots
    make trips back and forth between the water source and the fires,
    dropping into heavy turbulence zones to douse the flames.
    "It's extremely violent, it takes place at low altitude, there
    is heavy turbulence and wind, the planes are put into complex
    situations," said Dominique Pipat, a filmmaker who spent three
    months preparing a documentary about the Canadair pilots.
    "It's serious piloting - they're not flying from point A to
    point B in a Boeing. ... They love the adrenaline. They're very
    humble about what they do."
    Piasentin and de Benedict were buried Friday. They were awarded
    posthumous Legion of Honor awards. Interior Minister Nicolas
    Sarkozy praised them as "the very definition of courage."

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
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  18. #58
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    Post Malaysia/Indonesia

    Malaysia seeks crisis talks over choking haze
    By Mark Bendeich
    KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Malaysia sought crisis
    talks with its biggest neighbour on Thursday as Indonesian
    forest fires smothered peninsular Malaysia in a choking haze,
    threatening public health and raising fears for its economy.
    Much of peninsular Malaysia, including the capital, has
    been shrouded in thick smog for a week, presenting the country
    with its worst pollution crisis since 1997, when smoke mainly
    from Indonesian forest fires blocked out skies across Southeast
    Asia.
    Malaysia sent its environment and commodities ministers on
    Thursday to the Sumatran city of Medan where, according to
    Malaysian media, they were due to meet Indonesia's forestry
    minister and officials from its environment ministry.
    "I am going there to go on site and see what is happening,"
    Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Peter Chin told
    Reuters by phone on Thursday as he prepared to fly to Sumatra.
    Fires on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is a short
    ferry-ride away from peninsular Malaysia's west coast, flare up
    around this time every year as farmers, plantation owners and
    miners burn forests to clear land during the dry season.
    Malaysia has offered to help Indonesia fight the fires, but
    Chin declined to say what it could realistically do to help
    solve the problem or what he hoped to achieve from the Medan
    talks.
    Malaysian companies own large tracts of oil-palm plantation
    in Sumatra. Asked if some of these might also be to blame for
    the fires, he added: "We will see what happens (during the
    visit)." In Indonesia, Malaysian-owned operations are often
    said to be behind the burning or to be turning a blind eye to
    it.
    TOURISTS SEEK REFUGE
    Haze from Indonesia has become an almost annual problm in
    Malaysia where it is often made worse by its own dry-season
    fires, but this time the smog has reached dangerous levels,
    according to health authorities.
    Asthma attacks have soared and tourists are holing up in
    their hotels or seeking refuge in air-conditioned shopping
    malls at one of the busiest times for the country's tourism
    industry.
    Schools in worst-affected areas are closed for the rest of
    the week and a major port operator on the west coast suspended
    operations on Wednesday evening. An airport on the outskirts of
    Kuala Lumpur was closed on Wednesday for five hours.
    A ship was reported to have run aground this week, and
    vessels plying the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's
    busiest sea lanes, are warned to take care because of poor
    visibility.
    The government has said it will declare an emergency if the
    pollution index hits 500, a level considered hazardous. Kuala
    Lumpur registered 181 on Wednesday, with Putrajaya, the
    administrative capital, at 224, and Port Klang at 410.
    Malaysia is starting to publish daily pollution
    measurements, reversing a 1997 decision to keep the figures
    secret out of fears this would scare off tourism, a major
    industry generating 29.65 billion ringgit ($7.92 billion) in
    income last year.
    The haze has hurt the local stock market, dragging down
    shares in the airport, airlines and tourism industries.
    ($1 3.746 Malaysian Ringgit)
    (Additional reporting by Jerry Norton in Jakarta)
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    Post Europe

    By CONSTANT BRAND
    Associated Press Writer
    BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) - Drought and human negligence are to
    blame for the recent rise in forest fires across Europe, the
    European Union's head office said Wednesday, warning the situation
    in southern Europe remained precarious.
    Officials and experts said recent years have seen an increase in
    forest fires in the Mediterranean region, especially in EU
    countries Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece and France.
    It said while 2004 saw a dip in fires, this year was on track
    for a dramatic increase across Europe, comparable to the disastrous
    2003 forest fire season, which saw 740,000 hectares (1,828,540
    acres) of forests burned to the ground and claimed the lives of 40
    people.
    "The situation in Portugal, Spain and also the south of France
    is pretty critical," said Paulo Barbosa, from the EU's Institute
    for Environment and Security. He said preliminary figures compiled
    from EU member states up to the end of July, showed that 20 people
    had died in some 70,000 forest fires.
    He said "only 10 to 15 percent (of fires) are started by
    natural causes," pointing to this summer's deadly blaze in Spain.
    Eleven firefighters trying to extinguish a forest fire sparked
    by a smoldering barbecue were killed last month in central Spain.
    That fire destroyed more than 11,000 hectares (27,000 acres) of
    pine forest and forced the evacuation of hundreds of people from
    their villages in drought-stricken Spain.
    Spanish firefighters on Wednesday were battling a three-day-old
    wildfire in a national park in southern Spain, helped by
    water-dropping aircraft and firebreaks.
    Authorities estimate that the fire in the Sierra de Cazorla area
    of Jaen province - along with two others in the same region that
    have been brought under control - has burned some 4,000 hectares
    (9,900 acres) of woodland there. Some 1,000 people have been
    evacuated from the area as a precaution.
    In Portugal, where authorities reported no wildfires for the
    first time in 11 days as light rain and cooler temperatures settled
    over large parts of the country.
    Firefighters brought a three-day blaze in the Serra da Estrela
    National Park under control after nightfall Tuesday, the Civil
    Protection Service said. The fire was one of the worst in the
    history of the park, which was established in central Portugal
    almost 30 years ago.
    A heat wave during Portugal's worst drought on record brought a
    spate of summer forest blazes, which have killed two people,
    injured dozens and forced the temporary evacuation of hundreds from
    outlying villages.
    Environmental groups blame the fires on weak environmental
    education among rural communities and inadequate forest management
    policies.
    Police suspect many of the fires were set deliberately.
    Detectives have arrested more than 80 people this year on suspicion
    of starting wildfires.
    Barbosa said EU risk assessments, which are given on a daily
    basis to national forestry and civil protection services, showed
    that during a normal season the highest risk-countries in the
    Mediterranean area suffer some 60,000 fires per year, on average -
    between May and October. "More than 400,000 hectares (988,400
    acres) of forest burn in average every year," Barbosa said.
    Preliminary figures for this season assembled by the EU's
    so-called European Forest Fire Information System, EFFIS, show that
    2005 will be a very bad year.
    Barbosa said by early July, some 76,000 hectares (187,796 acres)
    of forests were already damaged in Portugal, over 37,000 hectares
    (91,427 acres) in Spain, 14,000 hectares (34,594 acres) in Italy
    and 4,930 hectares (12,182 acres) in France.
    In its annual forest fire report for 2004, the EU said some
    129,600 hectares (320,242 acres) of forest land was burned in
    Portugal, 127,900 hectares (316,041 acres) in Spain, 55,000
    hectares (135,905 acres) in Italy, 10,500 hectares (25,946 acres)
    in France, and 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) in Greece.
    The EU's forest fire risk center assembles information from
    satellite images, and also takes into account drought conditions
    and weather forecasts.
    France and other countries in the region have already imposed
    strict restrictions on the use of water, and have also moved to
    tighten rules on the use of camp fires, barbecues and engines in
    risk areas.
    ---
    On the Net: http://inforest.jrc.it/effis/

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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    Malaysia Chokes on Indonesia Forest Fires
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    MALAYSIA: August 11, 2005


    KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia choked on its worst pollution crisis in eight years on Wednesday, as forest fires from neighbouring Indonesia smothered the capital in thick smoke, forcing schools, an airport and a port operator to shut down.


    Asthma attacks soared and tourists huddled in air-conditioned shopping malls at one of the busiest times for the country's tourism industry, prompting the government to consider emergency measures and to offer its neighbour help in fighting the fires.

    "The situation is not getting better, it is getting worse," Environment Minister Adenan Satem told a news conference.

    Adenan said after a cabinet meeting that discussed ways to clear the haze that he and the commodities minister would travel to the Indonesian capital Jakarta as soon as possible to offer Malaysia's help in response to a plea Indonesia made to ASEAN nations.

    The government would declare an emergency if the pollution index hit 500, a level considered hazardous, he said. Kuala Lumpur registered 181 on Wednesday, with Putrajaya, the administrative capital, at 224, and Port Klang at 410.

    Malaysia is starting to publish daily pollution measurements, reversing a 1997 decision to keep the figures secret.

    The API numbers have been kept secret in the past for fear of hurting the tourism industry. Former premier Mahathir Mohamad, whose administration kept the data secret, wore a face mask against the smog at a public function on Wednesday.

    In the capital, wisps of smog swirled around the gleaming Petronas Towers, occasionally hiding the iconic structures from people in the streets below, many of whom wore masks or held up handkerchiefs to block out the worst of the acrid smoke.

    "This is the worst thing in Malaysia," said a tourist from the United Arab Emirates accompanied by his wife and three daughters, who gave his name only as Ahmad. "We're concerned for our health...It's very bad."


    SHIP RUNS AGROUND

    Kuala Lumpur, swarming with big-spending Middle East tourists at this time of year, warned against traffic hazards after a ship ran aground at nearby Port Klang and prepared to declare an emergency in the worst-hit regions.

    An airport close to the capital shut down for five hours and a major port operator on the west coast, Northport, suspended operations from 0900 GMT. Schools in two badly hit towns near Kuala Lumpur were ordered to close for the rest of the week.

    The haze also crept into the stock market where shares in the country's main airports operator, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd , and in national carrier Malaysian Airline System Bhd fell 4.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

    Air purifiers were "selling like hot cakes", said Azmi, a doctor. A long queue of people waited to buy air ionisers and purifiers in a swanky shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur, he said.

    Domestic media said the haze triggered a surge in respiratory diseases, almost doubling cases of asthma in some areas, and boosting breathing problems 60 percent elsewhere.

    "If the API exceeds 400 we want schools to close," Health Minister Chua Soi Lek told reporters. "We want people to cut down on outdoor activities. They must wear masks when outdoors."

    The US embassy ordered all employees working out-doors to wear masks. Motorists needed to switch on their headlights to be seen by other road users in the middle of the day.

    The haze has cut visibility in parts of the Malacca Strait, one of the world's busiest waterways, to about 1 km (0.6 miles), meteorological officials said.

    (Additional reporting by Jalil Hamid and Mark Bendeich)

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