Friday, 23 August, 2019


Greece wildfires leave at least 20 dead, dozens injured

Smoke rise over an avenue during a forest fire in Neo Voutsa a northeast suburb of Athens Greece on Monday Smoke rise over an avenue during a forest fire in Neo Voutsa a northeast suburb of Athens Greece on Monday
Bennie Garza | 25 July, 2018, 08:51

Fueled by 80 kph (50 mph) winds that frequently changed direction, the fires ‚one to the west of Athens near the town of Kineta and another to the northeast near the port of Rafina, spread at speeds that surprised many, trapping hundreds on beaches and cutting off escape routes.

Firefighters stand on a cliff top where burned trees hug the coastline in Mati east of Athens, Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

Hundreds of homes and cars were believed to have been burned.

A Reuters witness also saw several bodies in the area.

Commenting on the situation, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said during an official visit in Bosnia: "We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it".

"Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced", Economopoulos said.

As world leaders including Pope Francis pledged their solidarity, Athens said 308 engineers will arrive on site by Wednesday to assess the damage.

"The problem is what is still hidden under the ashes", said Vice President of Emergency Services Miltiadis Mylonas.

Residents, their faces blackened by smoke, wandered the streets, some searching for their burned-out cars, others for their pets.

When they got to the water, the smoke was so thick they couldn't see. "Then the patrol boats came".

People watch a wildfire in the town of Rafina, near Athens, on July 23.

Meanwhile in addition to the rising death toll, a number of people have been reported missing, some of whom are said to be tourists.

Evangelos Bournous, mayor of nearby Rafina, said simply: 'Mati no longer exists'.

A spokesman for the EKAV emergency service told radio station 24/7 that the dead included a 15-year-old girl and at least 11 of the injured were listed in critical condition at hospitals in the Attica region.

The death toll from Greece's deadliest wildfires in decades climbed to 74 Tuesday as rescue crews searched on land and sea for those who sought to escape the blazes that engulfed popular summer resort spots near Athens.

A motorcyclist looks at smoldering shrubbery on a road near Kineta west of Athens on Monday
A motorcyclist looks at smoldering shrubbery on a road near Kineta west of Athens on Monday

There was no official figure on how many people were evacuated overall.

"People are shocked, lost".

Fire raged around the Saronicos Gulf, ravaging tracts of pine forest, and was visible for miles.

The first fire started in the Geraneia mountains near Kineta, prompting three villages to be evacuated.

Mr Labropoulis said the flames came within two to three metres of his auto.

"It is awful to see the person next to you drowning and not being able to help him", Stavrinidis said, his voice breaking.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation head Jens Stoltenberg offered the alliance's full solidarity with Greece, whose government earmarked financial aid for victims' relatives.

This handout picture released by the Hellenic Ministry of Defense on July 24, 2018 shows an aerial view of the fire in Mati, Greece.

Tsipras said "all emergency forces" have been mobilised to battle the fires.

Fire swept through the village 40km (25 miles) north-east of Athens on Monday and was still burning in some areas on Tuesday morning.

Near the town of Marathon, residents fled to safety along the beach, while 600 children were evacuated from holiday camps in the area.

AFP quoted officials who suspect that arson by house looters might have triggered the blazes. "We couldn't see anything", he said of coastal towns consumed by fire and billowing smoke.

Forecasters said conditions would remain challenging on Tuesday, although showers and falling temperatures were expected in Athens.

In recent days, wildfires have also caused widespread damage in northern Europe.

The Dutch National Institute for Public Health has issued a heat warning for the whole week, warning air quality was likely to be "bad" for much of the country. But he hinted that so many fires at once needed further scrutiny.

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