13 arrested after superyacht fireworks spark forest fire in Greece

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Thirteen arrested after superyacht fireworks ignite forest rire on Greek Island of Hydra.

GREECE, June 23: Authorities have arrested thirteen individuals following a forest fire on the Greek island of Hydra, allegedly ignited by fireworks launched from a superyacht. The blaze, which erupted on Friday, scorched 300 acres of Hydra’s only pine forest, according to Greece’s Climate Crisis Minister Vassilis Kikilias.

The fire was eventually brought under control, though firefighters faced significant challenges due to the island’s lack of roads. Firefighters accessed the area by sea, while helicopters were deployed to drop water from above.

Greek media reported that all those arrested are crew members of the superyacht Persephoni, which is available for summer charter for €249,000 per week (£211,200; $269,300), according to luxury yacht dealers. The public prosecutor has called for the vessel to be confiscated, as stated by Mr. Kikilias.

Court documents, cited by several local media outlets, indicated that the yacht’s passengers were 17 Kazakhstan nationals who have since departed Greece. However, the BBC has been unable to independently verify this information.

On Sunday morning, the crew members were filmed arriving at the Piraeus Prosecutor’s Office, dressed in matching work uniforms and concealing their identities with sunglasses, masks, and hats.

There is a dispute between Greece’s coast guard and the fire department regarding the cause of the fire. While fire officials rely on a statement from a nearby vessel’s captain who reportedly saw fireworks being launched from Persephoni, the Coast Guard claims there is no evidence to support this allegation.

The incident has sparked outrage in Greece, which is already dealing with multiple wildfires and its first heatwave of the year. Hydra’s mayor, Giorgos Koukoudakis, expressed his indignation to Greek broadcaster ERT, stating, “We are indignant that some people so irresponsibly throw fireworks into a pine forest.”

Public sentiment on social media also reflected this outrage, with one commenter noting, “Rich people with more money than brains.”

Greece has been on high alert for wildfires since Tuesday, with authorities bracing for a difficult summer due to dry conditions, strong winds, and high temperatures. The country is no stranger to summer wildfires, and scientists have linked the increasing frequency and severity of such events to climate change. Additionally, Greece has a significant problem with arson; last August, at least 79 individuals were arrested for causing deadly wildfires.

Earlier this year, Greece introduced stricter arson laws, with penalties including up to 20 years in prison and fines up to €200,000. On Friday, a 55-year-old volunteer firefighter died from injuries sustained while battling a fire in the southern region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula.

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