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Greece wildfires: Reports say at least 50 dead (Photos)

By BBC | Published Tue, July 24th 2018 at 10:46, Updated July 24th 2018 at 10:56 GMT +3
The deadly forest fires rage near Athens. A search-and-rescue operation is being conducted.

At least 50 people are feared dead in wildfires burning in the Attica region around Athens, in Greece's worst fire crisis in more than a decade.

According to the Red Cross, 26 bodies were found in the yard of a villa in the seaside village of Mati, which is at the centre of the disaster.

Before news of the grim discovery, the official death toll stood at 24.

As part of a huge rescue effort, emergency workers used boats and helicopters to evacuate a beach.

A search-and-rescue operation is being conducted for 10 tourists who fled one of the fires in a boat, officials say.

Smoke over a suburb of Athens

Hundreds of firefighters are battling the blazes and the authorities are seeking international assistance.

"We will do whatever is humanly possible to control it," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras told reporters.

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How badly burnt is Mati?

Most of the victims were trapped in the village 40km (25 miles) north-east of Athens, and died either in their homes or their cars.

The village is located in the Rafina region which is popular with local tourists, especially pensioners and children attending holiday camps, Reuters news agency notes.

At least 104 people were injured, 11 seriously, with 16 children among the casualties.

The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007

"Mati doesn't even exist as a settlement anymore," one woman was quoted by Reuters as telling Greece's Skai TV. "I saw corpses, burned-out cars. I feel lucky to be alive."

"Thankfully the sea was there and we went into the sea, because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water," said Kostas Laganos, who also survived the Mati fire.

"It burned our backs and we dived into the water... I said my God, we must run to save ourselves."

How are the authorities responding?

Prime Minister Tsipras has declared a state of emergency in Attica, saying "all emergency forces" had been mobilised.

His government has asked other European countries for helicopters and additional firefighters to help tackle the fires.

Italy, Germany, Poland and France have all sent help in the form of planes, vehicles and firefighters but with temperatures set to soar again, they are in a race against time to get the fires under control.

The deadly wildfires have so far claimed 50 lives.

The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007, when dozens of people were killed in the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

What caused the fires?

Fires are a recurring problem during the hot, dry summer months in Attica. The flames this week were fanned by high winds.

Officials quoted by AFP news agency have suggested the current blazes may have been started by arsonists looking to loot abandoned homes.


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