50 dead in Greek wildfires

Hugh Fox
July 26, 2018

Regional Greek authorities have declared a state of emergency in the eastern and western parts of greater Athens, as fires fanned by gale-force winds raged through pine forests and seaside towns on either side of the Greek capital.

The death toll rose sharply on Tuesday morning after 26 bodies were found near the harbour town of Rafina, according to Red Cross workers and the region's vice mayor, Girgos Kokkolis.

The search is underway for survivors of Greek forest fires that have claimed the lives of more than 70 people.

Greece has sought global assistance to cope with the fires near the capital, which have destroyed dozens of homes, burned cars and prompted tourists and Greeks to flee to beaches east of Athens for dramatic rescues by boats.

Tspiras said "it's a hard night for Greece", and said more than 600 firefighters and 300 vehicles were involved in trying to put out the fires.

The identification of the victims was to begin Tuesday in an area frequented by many foreign tourists.

An aerial view shows damage caused by a wildfire near the village of Mati near Athens
Image More than 80 people have died

On Monday, wildfires broke out on the outskirts of the country's capital of Athens (in Kineta, about 50 kilometers west of the capital, in the East Attica area and near the town of Kalamos).

No casualties have yet been reported in Kineta, but numerous cars and houses have been burnt.

Greece has requested firefighting help from the European Union, and Malliri said a military transport plane is arriving with 60 firefighters from Cyprus, while two water-dropping planes are expected from Spain.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted Tuesday that the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people".

Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said rescue workers were "still searching if there are more missing".

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said "15 fires had started simultaneously on three different fronts in Athens" on Monday.

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"It's a national tragedy", civil protection agency official Ioanna Tsoupra told public broadcaster ERT.

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".

Video footage showed inhabitants fleeing the fires by vehicle, with several buildings and homes damaged, as the region of Attica - which includes Athens - declared a state of emergency.

In nearby Mati, the coast guard was sending a patrol boat to evacuate people trapped on a beach by the flames.

At least 74 people are believed to have died and 1000 homes destroyed in the fires which officials believe may have been started deliberately.

In 2007, 84 were killed by forest fires in Greece triggered by high temperatures and arson.

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

Norway, which experienced its hottest May temperatures on record, has seen several small fires.

The mercury hit a high of 35 Celsius this week in the Nordic nation, where usual summer temperatures are closer to 23 Celsius.

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blazes and some people have left their homes near Athens.

He also hinted that so many fires at once needed further scrutiny.

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