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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 August 2007, 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
'Fire threatens our hilltop home'
Rob Johnson
Rob Johnson and his partner have been on "evacuation watch"
Britons Rob Johnson and his partner Penny have been up all night on "evacuation watch" as fires rage a few miles from their home, in the badly-hit region around the town of Zaharo.

"Throughout the night the fires seemed to be heading away from us, but this morning the wind changed," Mr Johnson told the BBC News website.

"As I speak we've just been loading the car, sorting out our essentials in case we have to make our escape."

From their hillside olive farm, the couple can see plumes of smoke and distant fires.

If the flames reach a seaside village two miles from their house, it will be time to flee, they have agreed.

"Everything we have got is here, our lives are here," Mr Johnson said.

"We have two cats and two dogs, all our possessions, all our important documents. It is tough to know what little to take - but it is what we are having to think about."

Danger remains

The couple, originally from Kent, moved to Greece from the Peak District about three years ago . They run a five-acre olive farm, a small business that supports Mr Johnson's main vocation, fiction writing.

Picture taken from Rob Johnson's window
Wind is brining the fires towards Mr Johnson's home

These are the worst fires the author can recall.

"The fact that so many lives have been lost already is appalling," he told the BBC. "Given that it is widely acknowledged that many of the fires were started deliberately, it becomes an obscenity."

Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis has implied arsonists are to blame for many of the fires, which have killed about 50 people - and now threaten ancient ruins of Olympia.

Mr Johnson believes the arsonists are not pyromaniacs, but property developers who want to build on forested land.

Even now as I am standing at the airport with my husband and children, ashes are raining down on us
Catherine Lee
Tourist and BBC writer

"The law currently states that forested land cannot be built on, so what do you do if you want to build in such an area? Set fire to it so it's no longer forested."

For now, however, the couple's only priority is ensuring they are not caught unawares by the deadly blazes.

The winds are dying down, they say, but while they can see the fires from their balcony, the danger remains.

'Ashes raining down'

As the Greek people bear the full effects of the fires, tourists have also been caught up in the nationwide state of emergency.

Reader pic: Konstantinos Topalidis
Konstantinos Topalidis sent a picture showing smoke haze around Athens

Another Briton, Catherine Lee from the BBC News website's Newcastle office, is at Kalamata Airport, in the southern Peloponnese.

"There is a lot of smoke around and it is very obvious that this is a major incident," she said. "Even now as I am standing at the airport with my husband and children, ashes are raining down on us."

The family are heading home after a holiday in Koroni, about 40km south of Kalamata.

map/ Nasa picture of fires on Greece

"The disaster has been a constant presence during our stay. Everyone is talking about it and reading about it. If you go out for a meal, then there will be a television showing the latest pictures from the disaster zone.

"My children have seen images of charred bodies - although they are pixellated, they are still recognizable for what they are.

"At night the moon appears in a very hazy, red light. By day, the smoke clouds blot out the sun."

On Saturday, fire raged in and around Athens on the Greek mainland.

BBC News website reader Konstantinos Topalidis sent in pictures taken from the roof of his Athens home showing the smoke haze around the city.

""Today thankfully the wind has dropped, but there are still many fires burning all over Greece," he said.


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