A firestorm that swept by means of a seaside resort city close to the Greek capital killed a minimum of 60 folks, together with households with kids discovered clasped in a final embrace on a seashore as they tried to flee the flames, officers mentioned.
The 2 largest wildfires — one 20 miles northeast of Athens close to Rafina, the opposite 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta — broke out Monday throughout scorching, dry summer season situations.
Fanned by gale-force winds that steadily modified path, the flames unfold quickly into populated seaside cities — too quick for a lot of who have been of their automobiles or properties to flee, hearth division spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri mentioned.
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a three-day nationwide mourning interval for these killed within the wildfires, Sky Information reported.
In Rafina, rescue staff discovered the our bodies of 26 folks huddled collectively close to a seashore.
“That they had tried to search out an escape route however sadly these folks and their youngsters didn’t make it in time. Instinctively, seeing the top nearing, they embraced,” Nikos Economopoulos, the pinnacle of Greece’s Pink Cross, informed Skai TV.
Many vacationers and residents fled towards the shoreline to flee the ferocious flames and choking smoke. Authorities evacuated greater than 700 folks by sea in a single day, mentioned Service provider Marine deputy minister Nektarios Santorinios, whose ministry is in control of the coast guard.
“Every little thing occurred in seconds,” mentioned Andreaas Passios, who lives subsequent to the compound. “I grabbed a seashore towel. It saved my life. I soaked it, grabbed my spouse and we ran to the ocean.”
Passios mentioned he and his spouse stayed by the ocean for 2 hours: “It was unbelievable. Fuel canisters have been exploding. Burning pine cones have been flying in every single place.”
When the flames died down, Spyros Hadjiandreou got here looking for family members.
“My niece and cousin have been staying right here on vacation. I do not know in the event that they made it out,” he mentioned. “I do not know if they’re OK. I have not heard from them.”
Evangelos Bournous, the Rafina mayor, blamed the winds.
“We have been unfortunate,” he mentioned. “The wind modified and it got here at us with such pressure that it razed the coastal space in minutes.”
Rafina’s dock grew to become a makeshift hospital in the course of the night time as paramedics checked survivors, a few of them clad in solely their bathing fits, rising from coast guard vessels and personal boats. The hearth division mentioned 156 adults and 16 kids have been hospitalized with accidents. Eleven of the adults have been in critical situation.
In all, 47 brush and forest fires broke out throughout Greece Monday and early Tuesday, with most of them shortly extinguished, the fireplace division mentioned. Ten have been nonetheless burning late Tuesday morning, together with blazes in Corinth, Crete, and in central and northern Greece.
Greater than 400 firefighters and volunteer firefighters have been battling the 2 fires close to Athens, supported by seven water-dropping helicopters and three plane.
Greece sought worldwide assist by means of the European Union. Spain was sending two firefighting plane whereas Cyprus was sending in 60 firefighters. Israel and Turkey each additionally provided help.
It was the deadliest hearth season to hit Greece in additional than a decade. Greater than 60 folks have been killed in 2007 when large fires swept throughout the southern Peloponnese area.
“It is a tough night time for Greece,” Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras mentioned late Monday after chopping brief a visit to Bosnia and returning to Athens.
The Related Press contributed to this report.