Home / Europe / Greece wildfires: Search continues after at least 74 killed

Greece wildfires: Search continues after at least 74 killed

Media captionWildfires cause devastation in Greece

The search for survivors is continuing in Greece, where at least 74 people have died in wildfires near the capital Athens.

High winds spread the fire, trapping many in homes and vehicles and forcing others into the sea as they tried to escape the flames.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of mourning.

On Tuesday, the bodies of 26 adults and children who apparently died embracing each other were found on a cliff top.

“They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn’t make it in time. Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced, ” Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece’s Red Cross, said.

On Monday night, hundreds of firefighters battled the flames, which were fanned by winds of up to 100km/h (60mph).

Coastal patrol boats and private vessels picked up hundreds of those who managed to reach harbours or beaches.

Rescuers are now searching houses, cars and the coastline for survivors and victims of the fires, amid fears the death toll will rise.

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Rescuers continue their search of the area

Relatives of those reported missing have been posting photographs on a website in the hope of tracing their whereabouts.

Prime Minister Tsipras has declared a state of emergency in Attica, saying all emergency services have been mobilised.

Italy, Germany, Poland and France have all sent help in the form of planes, vehicles and firefighters, while Spain and Cyprus have also offered assistance.

‘Biblical catastrophe’

The seaside resort of Mati, in Attica, is popular with local tourists, especially pensioners and children attending holiday camps.

Survivor Kostas Laganos said: “It burned our backs and we dived into the water… I said: ‘My God, we must run to save ourselves.'”

George Vokas, whose family also escaped by sea, told BBC News that two women he had tried to help had died.

“We’re talking about a biblical catastrophe in this wonderful area of Mati,” he said.

Charred bodies lay just 15m (50ft) from the sea, photographer Pantelis Saitas told the Athens-Macedonian News Agency.

At least 150 people were injured in the area.

What caused the fires?

Fires are a recurring problem during the hot, dry summer months in Attica.

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

“Fifteen fires had started simultaneously on three different fronts in Athens,” said government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos.

Greece, he added, had requested drones from the US to “detect any suspicious activity”.

Greece’s last major fire disaster was in 2007, when dozens of people were killed in the southern Peloponnese peninsula.

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Kalogerikos Nikos

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People attempt to escape the wildfires near the seaside village of Mati

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Smoke over a suburb of Athens

Greece wildfires: Search continues after at least 74 killed

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