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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 August 2006, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Greek fire hits holiday Britons
Picture of forest fire in northern Greece sent to the BBC by holidaymaker Jo Leaney
Holidaymaker Jo Leaney sent the BBC this picture of the fire raging
At least 1,000 Britons have been forced to spend the night on a beach in northern Greece because of a forest fire burning out of control.

The blaze is said to be raging on several fronts on the Halkidiki peninsula, south of Thessaloniki.

Homes, hotels and campsites have been evacuated but there are no reports of British casualties.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said a consular team was in contact with local authorities and the fire brigade.

A consular team from Athens is travelling to the area in an attempt to offer further assistance.

Ian Whitting, deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Athens, told the BBC the situation was being brought under control.

He said: "People are returning to their hotels after spending a night on the beach.

"As far as we understand none of the hotels have been damaged.

"There is a problem with power, but the local authorities are doing their best to restore that, but the hotels all have water."

Map of Greece

The Foreign Office believes there are no British casualties, but the Greek coastguard confirmed a German man had drowned as he tried to get on a boat evacuating people to safety.

UK tour operators are working to account for their customers staying in the region.

Tour operator Thomas Cook said it was in the process of accounting for its 428 customers in one of the resorts affected.

"We have had reports back that there are three hotels that we have passengers in that have now been evacuated," a spokeswoman said.

"What our reps are doing is just accounting for everyone and making sure that everyone is in the same area on the beach."

First Choice, another UK tour operator, which has around 200 tourists staying in the resort of Hanioti, said it believed the majority of people were now on the beach.

Elaine Willan, a nurse from Rainham in Kent, spent the night on the beach with her family.

Crowded beaches

She said it became "quite crowded, and people were being turned back because they'd gone as far as they could go, there was nowhere else to go."

Another British holidaymaker, at a Halkidiki resort, Jo Leaney, told the BBC the fire had raced down from nearby hills and forced her out of her apartment.

She was in her apartment with others when she spotted flames in the hills.

The rooms "suddenly filled with smoke", Ms Leaney said, and they fled to the beach "with only the belongings we had on us", along with other tourists and local residents.

Returning to her hotel on Tuesday morning, the British tourist said she was unclear about her options.

She said: "We have no electricity, no water. There is a supermarket open nearby to us but of course there isn't any sort of facilities to do anything at the moment.

"And obviously we haven't seen our rep, so we don't know what our options are at the moment."

'Hot ash'

Craig Shakespeare, who is in Hanioti with his girlfriend, Lyndsey Jones, said he was "dodging hot ash" as he fled to the nearby beach.

Mr Shakespeare told the BBC hundreds of tourists, the majority of them Greek, were gathered on the beach.

He said he had been told his hotel was on fire, along with some other buildings in Hanioti but that he had since been informed that the fire was contained to the main road.

The fire comes at the hottest time of year and during a prolonged dry spell, with temperatures reaching 42C (107F) in some parts of the region.

The UK Foreign Office has set up a phone number for worried relatives: 020 7008 1500.

See the forest fires ravaging northern Greece

Country profile: Greece
21 Aug 06 |  Country profiles

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