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Brussels, 25 July 2008

Civil Protection Mechanism activated for fires in Rhodes (Greece)

On July 24, against a backdrop of soaring temperatures, Greece asked for European assistance to fight the forest fires that have broken out in Rhodes. The European Commission immediately activated its Civil Protection Mechanism, which is operated under the responsibility of the Commissioner for the Environment and Civil Protection, Stavros Dimas.

The Mechanism, which coordinates European efforts when national forces are overwhelmed, has mobilised four fire-fighting aircraft and one aircraft for coordination purposes. Two fire-fighting aircraft from Italy, two from France and a helicopter from Cyprus are already in action.

The fires in Rhodes are affecting some 1500 hectares, with eyewitnesses speaking of a plume of smoke rising some 2000 feet into the air. The situation on the ground is still critical. Greece is being badly affected by the local high temperatures. Its national fire-fighting services are struggling with more than 65 fires in various parts of the country.

"The speed with which Member States offered and delivered assistance demonstrates the high degree of solidarity of European countries. But it also is evidence of the improvements that were made in the deployment of help after the experience of last year's forest fires," said Commissioner Dimas.

This deployment represents the first application within Europe of the 'modules' recently established by EC Legislation. The modules are civil protection teams from Member States which can be dispatched at very short notice, generally within 6 to 12 hours of a request for assistance.

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