Published: Thu, July 26, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

At least 50 people dead in Greece following wildfires

At least 50 people dead in Greece following wildfires

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

The death toll jumped Tuesday morning after the Red Cross discovered 26 bodies on the lawn of a seaside villa in Mati. Bekir Pakdemirli, Turkey's agriculture and forestry minister, said firefighting planes are "45 minutes away if there is a request and we are ready to intervene immediately".

Winds of more than 100km/h in Mati caused a "sudden progression of fire" through the village, said Stavroula Maliri.

"I personally saw at least 100 homes in flames", said Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the Rafina-Pikermi area.

They have so far claimed the lives of at least 79 people around Athens, with many dozens more injured.

A view of burned cars after a fire in Argyra Akti, Mati, close to Nea Makri, in Attica, Greece, 24 July 2018.

Some of the survivors spent fraught hours choking on clouds of ash at the edge of the water as they waited for help.

The Government confirmed his death on Wednesday night.

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

A house burns during a wildfire in Kineta, near Athens.

Greece has appealed for help from its neighbours to tackle the disaster and Cyprus and Spain have already promised to send assistance.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people" while Pope Francis spoke of his "deep sadness", sentiments echoed by EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders.

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In all, 47 brush and forest fires broke out across Greece on Monday and early today, with majority quickly extinguished, the fire department said.

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

"Today Greece is mourning, and in memory of those who were lost, we are declaring a three-day period of mourning", Tsipras said.

Forest fires are common in Greece during the hot, dry summers and the country has been facing high temperatures recently of up to 104 Fahrenheit.

Video footage showed people fleeing by auto as the tourist-friendly Attica region declared a state of emergency.

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

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

"I am really concerned by the parallel outbreak of these fires", he said, with officials raising the possibility they could have been started deliberately by criminals out to ransack abandoned homes.

By yesterday afternoon, the Mati fire was contained, but the risk remained of it reigniting in scrubland parched by Greece's searing summer heat. "We couldn't see anything", he said of coastal towns consumed by fire and billowing smoke.

It's impossible to imagine this happening in your home town, but photographs of the villages, homes, and people affected will give you a fleeting insight into what people in Greece are going through right now.

Sweden, experiencing an unprecedented drought and the highest temperatures in a century, has counted more than 20 fires across the country.

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