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Prosecutors Seek Arrest of Yacht's Passengers for Sparking a Wildfire

Yacht burning island
Image courtesy Epoxikoi Pirosvestes (Seasonal Firefighters)

Published Jun 23, 2024 11:49 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

Prosecutors in Piraeus are seeking the arrest of a luxurious superyacht and the detention of its 13 passengers and crewmembers, who are suspected of starting a wildfire on a popular resort island south of Athens.

Greece is currently in the midst of an intense heat wave, and temperatures passed the 110 Fahrenheit mark in some areas this month. An extreme fire risk warning was in effect last week because of the high heat and the potential for high winds, which can drive runaway forest fires. The warning came along with a ban on many activities that have the potential to start wildfires. 

On Friday, a giant forest fire broke out on the island of Hydra. The blaze burned through 3,000 acres of the island's pine forest in 24 hours before responders managed to limit its spread. To get it under control, the authorities had to dispatch six aircraft and two firefighting teams, climate minister Vasilis Kikilias said. 

According to prosecutors, the blaze on Hydra was sparked by a banned volley of fireworks launched from the deck of the 175-foot superyacht Persefoni I. The master of a nearby vessel reported that he witnessed fireworks or flares coming from the yacht before the forest fire, according to local media reports. 

The vessel's crew were detained in Piraeus on Sunday and brought before a criminal court. The passengers are Kazakh nationals, according to local media. 

"What was destroyed was absolutely beautiful pine forest and on the night in question, because of the winds, fireworks were banned. To use them was utterly irresponsible," said Hydra's mayor, Giorgos Koukoudakis. 

If the fire on Hydra had been avoided, it would have freed up resources for use elsewhere, authorities noted. Greek firefighters were battling multiple serious blazes across the country last weekend, and the aircraft and fire teams could have been deployed to one of these other locations. 

The case has captured public attention in Greece. If it goes to trial, and prosecutors secure a conviction, the punishment could be stringent. Greece has strengthened its anti-arson laws after a string of tough fire seasons, and the penalty for starting a fire can now reach up to 20 years in prison or a fine of $250,000.