An entire family has been killed in the wildfires that have struck resorts near the Greek capital, Athens, claiming the lives of more than 60 people. Rescuers discovered 26 bodies, including those of small children, huddled together at one holiday compound, some of them hugging. They were found just 30 metres away from the sea after being unable to find a route away from the fires in the village of Mati.
An entire family has been wiped out in Mati after flames raged through the area, fanned by 26mph winds. A mayor has said that ‘Mati no longer exists’ following the fires that raged through.
Flames causing dangerous driving conditions in Greece. It is believed they huddled together in a bid to protect themselves from the fire which was fuelled by 60mph winds. Fire brigade spokesman Stavroula Maliri said they caused a ‘sudden progression of fire’ through the village.
Mati no longer exists,’ said the mayor of nearby port town Rafina, Evangelos Bournous, adding that more than a thousand buildings and 300 cars had been damaged. Many tourists and residents fled towards the coastline to escape the flames and choking smoke.
Authorities evacuated more than 700 people by sea overnight, said government minister Nektarios Santorinios, whose ministry is in charge of the coast guard. The two largest wildfires – one 20 miles north-east of Athens near Rafina, the other 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta – broke out on Monday during hot, dry summer conditions. Firefighters search the area where 26 charred bodies were found.
Many people died in their cars when they were unable to get out of the way of the fire. Fanned by gale-force winds that frequently changed direction, the flames spread rapidly into populated seaside towns – too fast for many who were in their cars or homes to flee, fire department spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said.
The head of Greece’s Red Cross, Nikos Oikonomopoulos, told Skai television that a Red Cross rescue team reported finding the 26 bodies in a compound north-east of Athens. In all, the death toll stood at 50 by Tuesday morning, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said. Andreaas Passios, who lives next to the compound, said: ‘Everything happened in seconds. ‘I grabbed a beach towel.
It saved my life. I soaked it, grabbed my wife and we ran to the sea.’ Mr Passios said he and his wife stayed by the sea for two hours. Asimina Psalti, 87, reacts as she sits outside her burned house in Mati east of Athens Hundreds of people have fled to the sea to try and avoid the flames in Greece.
Many people have died at sea resorts as they’ve been overcome by the fire. It was unbelievable. Gas canisters were exploding. Burning pine cones were flying everywhere.’ When the flames died down, Spyros Hadjiandreou came searching for loved ones. ‘My niece and cousin were staying here on holiday,’ he said.
I don’t know if they made it out. ‘I don’t know if they are OK. I haven’t heard from them.’ Aleka Papariga, a former Greek Communist Party leader who lives near Rafina, said: ‘The police tried to direct us away from the fire, but we couldn’t escape it. ‘We got stuck in traffic and the flames were on top of us.
We managed to find a small gap and we made it out.’ A dog rests on a rock where it managed to find refuge after the fires burned the area. People in the town of Kineta wait on the beach for the wildfires to pass. Evangelos Bournous, the Rafina mayor, blamed the strong winds. ‘We were unlucky,’ he said. ‘The wind changed and it came at us with such force that it razed the coastal area in minutes.’ Mr Tzanakopoulos said 715 people were evacuated from beaches and the coastline by navy vessels, yachts and fishing boats.
The coast guard said 19 people were rescued at sea, some of whom had swum out to escape the flames. Rafina’s dock became a makeshift hospital during the night as paramedics checked survivors, some of them clad in only their bathing suits, emerging from coast guard vessels and private boats. The fire department said 156 adults and 16 children were taken to hospital with injuries.
Eleven of the adults are in a serious condition. A man holding a dog pushes an inflatable boat as locals are evacuated during the wildfire at the village of Mati. Dozens of people have had to be rescued by boat to avoid the fires. Dozens of people have died in wildfires in Greece after getting trapped in their cars and homes.
The deadliest blazes to hit the country in more than a decade have seen wildfires fanned by high winds rage through holiday resorts near Athens. In all, 47 brush and forest fires broke out across Greece on Monday and early on Tuesday, with most of them quickly extinguished, the fire department said.
Ten were still burning late on Tuesday morning, including blazes in Corinth, Crete, and in central and northern Greece. More than 400 firefighters and volunteer firefighters were battling the two fires near Athens, supported by seven water-dropping helicopters and three aircraft. Greece sought international help through the European Union. Spain was sending two firefighting aircraft while Cyprus was sending in 60 firefighters. Israel and Turkey have both also offered assistance.
It is the deadliest fire season to hit Greece in more than a decade. More than 60 people were killed in 2007 when huge fires swept across the southern Peloponnese region. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who cut short a trip to Bosnia in order to return to Athens, said: ‘It’s a difficult night for Greece.’