Greek resort blaze 'under control'

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A forest fire at a Greek holiday resort which led to the evacuation of hundreds of Britons is being brought under control, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said today.

The blaze broke out on the Halkidiki peninsula in northern Greece, close to the resorts of Polychrono and Hanioti, and prompted the evacuation of up to 1,500 British holidaymakers last night. Many spent the night on the beach.

But the situation is now being brought under control, an FCO spokesman said. He said: "The fire is being brought under control and people are being allowed back into the area, and I think back into the hotels depending on exactly where they are, and there are no reports of any British casualties."

Ian Whitting, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Athens, said today that there had been no reports of British casualties or requests for consular assistance.

He said work was under way to check that every British tourist in the area has been accounted for. No hotels in which British holidaymakers were staying are known to have been damaged, he added.

Mr Whitting told Sky News that some 600 people were involved in the evacuation, many of whom stayed on beaches overnight or went to reception areas to the north of the peninsula.

He said: "We have had no reports of casualties and no requests at all for consular assistance, either from within Greece or the UK or anywhere else for that matter.

"But we obviously take this very seriously, that is why we are working closely with tour operators to make sure everyone is accounted for as soon as possible." He added: "If hotels are damaged and people want to get back as fast as possible, we will be working with their operators closely to make sure that happens."

The area was declared a disaster zone by Greek authorities yesterday as firefighters battled with the forest blaze.

UK tour operators Thomas Cook and First Choice said they had a large number of holidaymakers in the area.

Greek fire chiefs said strong winds and hot conditions made it difficult to control the flames as they spread into the populated area.

The fire broke out amid a heatwave across south-east Europe, with temperatures in some areas reaching 42C (107.6F).

Thomas Cook said 428 of its customers were staying in one of the resorts affected by the fires and three hotels had been evacuated.

First Choice said it had around 200 tourists staying in four different "units" in the resort of Hanioti.

A spokesman for the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) said around 1,500 of its members' customers were "in and around" the peninsula affected by the fires. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has set up a helpline for holidaymakers travelling to the region: 020 7008 1500.