Greece appeals for help after deadly fires ravage coast

26 July, 2018, 17:28 | Author: Donnie King
  • Forest fires: Greece declares state of emergency, asks for international aid

A man looks at the flames as a wildfire burns in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018.

Twin wildfires raging through popular seaside areas near the Greek capital have torched homes, cars and forests and killed at least 49 people, authorities said Tuesday, raising the death toll after rescue crews reported finding the bodies of more than 20 people huddled together near a beach.

The bodies were entwined and severely burnt, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

Smoke from the blazes blotted out the sun over the famed Parthenon temple in Athens, where some ministries closed Monday afternoon due to the searing heat.

The wildfires broke out in Mati, 18 miles from the country's capital Athens. Eleven of the adults are in serious condition.

With the flames whipped up by gale-force winds that frequently changed direction, many tourists and residents fled toward the coastline.

The death toll is expected to rise even further.

.

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

Authorities were trying to evacuate inhabitants, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said.

Over the two days, 47 brush and forest fires broke out across Greece, with majority quickly extinguished, the fire department said.

The worst affected area centred around the village of Mati, 29km east of Athens.

Evacuees were transferred to hotels and military camps, while anxious relatives flocked to the area.

Police in the town said they found two Danish tourists out of a group of 10 in a boat at sea off the town and were trying to locate the others.

Forest fires: Greece declares state of emergency, asks for international aid
Wildfires in Greece Kill At Least 49

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

Firefighters stand on a cliff top where burned trees hug the coastline in Mati east of Athens, Tuesday, July 24, 2018.

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

At least three aircraft and a helicopter were battling the flames, along with more than 60 firefighters.

Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, and a relatively dry winter helped create the current tinder-box conditions. Blazes in 2007 on the southern island of Evia claimed 77 lives.

A firefighting operation is underway with more than 600 firefighters and 300 engines striving to contain the flames, as the area is surrounded by pines, while Greece has asked the European Union for assistance.

Sweden is experiencing an unprecedented drought and soaring temperatures which have reached the highest in a century.

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

Greece issued an urgent appeal for help to tackle fires that raged out of control in several places across the country, destroying homes and disrupting major transport links.

Some 25,000 hectares (62,000 acres) of land have already gone up in smoke or continues to burn an area twice the size of the city of Paris.

"Then the fire was all around us", Stavrinidis said.

In Finland's northernmost Lapland province, fires have ravaged woods and grassland close to the border with Russian Federation.




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