Goat breeder says he's finished after deadly Evros wildfire kills livestock

By Alexandros Avramidis

PROVATONAS, Greece (Reuters) -Goat breeder Kleanthis Raptis lost most of his livestock on Saturday after a deadly wildfire which has burned for more than two weeks ripped through his stable close to the village of Provatonas in northeastern Greece.

Aircraft and hundreds of firefighters struggled for the 16th day on Sunday to contain the wildfire in the northeastern region of Evros, Europe's deadliest this summer, which killed at least 20 people, destroyed homes and scorched lush forests, including the protected Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli park.

"We're finished, we're finished," said Raptis, 56, as he walked past his pen, most of its tin roofing knocked down by the fire.

"There is nothing left behind. Thirtyfive animals were lost, they were burned," he said. "The rest have burns and we don't know if they can survive."

The charred body of a goat lay on the scorched ground of what was left of the enclosure. One of the 19 animals who survived bleated as Raptis grabbed its face to reveal the burns on its ear.

Last year, when another fire in Evros burnt half of the stable, Raptis managed to save all his livestock. But the latest blaze, which came very close to the stable a few days ago, burnt it to the ground on Saturday.

"The same happened five days ago but we had made it on time, we saved them. Yesterday it was a complete destruction," he said.

Summer wildfires are common in the Mediterranean nation but the government has said that extremely dry, windy and hot conditions that scientists link to climate change have made them worse this year, forcing thousands of evacuations.

The blaze was largely contained on Sunday although more people were evacuated overnight, fire brigade spokesperson Ioannis Artopoios told Skai radio station.

But it could flare up at any time, he added.

Raptis hoped the state would offer him any kind of help.

"There is no other way. How are we going to get through?"

(Writing by Angeliki Koutantou, Editing by Angus MacSwan)