Thirteen in court after yacht's fireworks spark Greek island blaze

Thirteen in court after yacht's fireworks spark Greek island blaze

The thirteen crew members of the yacht Persefoni were charged with a felony and ordered to enter a plea on Wednesday by the investigating judge.

If found guilty they could face a prison sentence of up to 20 years as well as a large fine.

They were arrested last Wednesday for allegedly launching fireworks that caused a fire to break out in a pine forest on the island.

Firefighters managed to put the fire out but not before it had burned down part of the pine forest.

The yacht, which been hired by a group of 17 Kazakh nationals, has since been confiscated by the authorities.

Hydra's Mayor Giorgos Koukoudakis said anti-fire zones must be expanded on the island and more access roads built to improve firefighting efforts in the future.

Although the country's fires are often caused by extreme heat and fast winds, it also has a problem with arsonists.

Last year, Greece significantly increased penalties for both deliberate and negligent arson. The new laws impose fines up to €200,000 and potential prison sentences of up to 20 years.

Greece's Civil Protection Minister Vassilis Kikilias warned last week against accidentally triggering wildfires saying, "even the smallest fire can rapidly turn into a fiery front."

On Saturday hundreds of firefighters battled wildfires on both Greece's islands and the mainland.

On Friday, a 55-year-old volunteer firefighter died in hospital of injuries he sustained while battling a blaze in the southern region of Ilia on the Peloponnese peninsula.

And last week, residents in the Athenian suburb of Kitsi were forced to evacuate following a wildfire which authorities have blamed on arson as well as the country's unprecedentedly early June heatwave.