Greek prosecutors on Sunday charged 13 crew members of a luxury yacht accused of setting off fireworks that caused a major wildfire on an island near Athens, media reports said.

The crew will go on trial Wednesday on charges of causing a criminal fire, the ERT public broadcaster said.

A new surge in wildfires has put a spotlight on the case, and under recently toughened legislation the crew could be jailed for up to 20 years and fined up to 200,000 euros ($214,000).

The crew denied the charges, and prosecutors will not pursue charges against the 17 Kazakh passengers who were on the yacht on Friday night when the fireworks were set off, ERT said.

Some of the fireworks landed on the island of Hydra, starting a blaze that burned about 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine forest, according to the civil protection service.

The captain of a nearby ship who saw the fireworks being set off was questioned at Sunday’s hearing, reports said.

Amid fierce winds and rising temperature, dozens of wildfires have left at least one dead and already scarred resorts and the Greek countryside at the start of the summer season.

The civil protection service has called for extreme vigilance because the risk of fires was “very high”, particularly in the Attica region, the Peloponnese peninsula and in central Greece.

After its warmest winter ever, the Mediterranean country recorded its first heatwave of the year last week, with temperatures rising above 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit) in some locations.

Last year, a fierce two-week heatwave was followed by devastating wildfires in which 20 people died.

Scientists warn that fossil fuel emissions caused by humans are worsening the length and intensity of heatwaves around the world.

Source: AFP