Greek authorities confirm 50 killed in wildfires near Athens

Advert Travel Gazette

At least 50 people lost their lives during the raging wildfires which broke out on Monday near Athens, according to the latest official statistics on Tuesday.

All victims were found at seaside resorts in eastern Attica, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos announced in a statement broadcast on Greek national broadcaster ERT.

The charred bodies of 25 persons, including parents embracing their children, were discovered earlier at Argira Akti (Silver coast) at Mati resort town near a beach-side tavern just a few meters from the water.

Among the victims were many minors, including a 6-month-old who succumbed to smoke inhalation, according to Greek Health Ministry officials.

Meanwhile, at least 156 people were hospitalized with burns, including 11 in critical condition, the Health Ministry said.

The death toll may further rise in the coming hours as an unclear number of persons was reported missing, according to local media.

Some 1,000 houses and 300 cars have been scorched by the blaze in the settlements of Mati, Neos Voutzas and Kokkino Limanaki, 35 kilometers east of the Greek capital, which were most affected, local officials said.

Many victims were believed to have been trapped in flames inside their homes and cars or attempted to escape swimming at the sea, but drowned.

A total of 715 persons who had been stranded on the shores were transferred to safety to Rafina port by dozens of Greek Coast Guard vessels and private boats, Tzanakopoulos said.

Two persons were still missing at sea, according to the Shipping Ministry.

“The 44th anniversary of the restoration of democracy in Greece is overshadowed by this tragedy,” Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said, according to Greek national news agency AMNA.

“Attica in ashes,” read the title on the front page of Ethnos (Nation) daily.

Monday’s tragedy is the worst Greece suffers linked to fires since the summer of 2007 when the country mourned over 80 casualties in dozens of fires nationwide.

The most affected area this time, where all casualties were reported, was eastern Attica.

The area was declared in state of emergency by authorities, along western Attica, where a large fire also burnt a pine forest and dozens of homes near the resort town of Kineta, 50 kilometers west of Athens.

Another blaze at Kalamos resort town to the north which broke seven hours after the first fire at Kineta, forcing also hundreds of people to flee their homes, was partially put under control by early Tuesday, according to the Fire Service.

At least 47 fires broke out across Greece on Monday and Tuesday, the Fire Service said.

The Greek government has raised questions about arson, as fires started in many sites in parallel when winds reached up to 9 on the Beaufort scale.

Greece has requested European support to extinguish the fires, and personnel, fire engines and water dropping planes from Cyprus and Spain were expected to reach the area later Tuesday, Tzanakopoulos said.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras had a telephone conversation with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Tuesday, during which Juncker expressed EU’s solidarity with Greece and willingness to provide any means to assist in addressing the crisis, Tzanakopoulos added.

Tsipras also spoke over phone with leaders of Cyprus and Bulgaria, and was scheduled to hold contacts with leaders of Turkey and France.

Travel Gazette Ads