Monday, August 20, 2012

Wildfires destroy acres of rare Greek forest

A raging fire on the forested Greek island of Chios burns tens of thousands of acres of pristine forest, including scores of mastic trees, that are unique to the area and a large part of the island's economy.

The fire started in the early hours of Saturday morning, with gale force winds pushing it southward.

Billowing brown smoke choked the island, which lies northeast of Athens off the coast of Turkey, as 21 fire egines and dozens of volunteers battled the flames to prevent them from reaching the cluster of villages that traditionally produce the rare mastic tree resin, which only grows on Chios.

The mastic resin is used as a natural chewing gum, a cooking spice and for pharmaceutical and culinary purposes.

Scores of mastic orchards were destroyed, their melted resin forming white circles around the burned trees and putting at risk many islanders' livelihood.

The cloud of smoke could be seen as far as the southern island of Crete. Read More