Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

Devastating photos show the impact of deadly wildfires in Athens

Irish man dies in Greece wildfire while on honeymoon with wife Zoe Holohan and Brian O’Callaghan-Westropp
Gerardo Duncan | 25 July, 2018, 22:00

Hundreds of firefighters were battling the blazes as people left their homes behind near the capital.

According to the Fire Department, 47 fires broke out in the country over the last 24 hours; 15 out of the total were around Athens.

Government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos confirmed the death toll and said most of the victims were trapped in the seaside resort of Mati, 40km from here, and died either in their homes or their cars on Monday.

More than 150 people have been injured in the blazes, which are burning in three main fronts in the Attica region, including one that is now out of control near the seaside resort village of Mati. "There were a lot of waves, huge waves ... they were coming like mountains over us".

Malliri said Tuesday that strong winds have fanned the flames, with the fires spreading rapidly into inhabited areas, preventing people who are in their homes or in their cars from managing to flee. It's a popular vacation spot for older Greeks and kids attending summer camps. Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced, " Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece's Red Cross, said.

Panos Kapatis, the vice mayor of Rafina, said fire and rescue arrived promptly but the dense pine forests around Mati were highly flammable. Some appeared to be hugging.

"We were not informed and were not evacuated", she said. Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences to the Greek authorities over the deadly wildfires the country has been facing and offered help in combating the blazes, the Kremlin press service said in a statement. "Help is on its way".

Ambulance Service deputy director Miltiadis Mylonas warned that the death toll likely would rise as more thorough searches of gutted homes, cars and buildings continued.

Greek firefighters battled the flames throughout the night.

Fueled by 80 kph winds that frequently changed direction, the fires one to the west of Athens near the town of Kineta and another to the northeast near the port of Rafina spread at speeds that surprised many, trapping hundreds on beaches and cutting off escape routes.

Although the fires had largely abated by today, they were far from out.

The prime minister, Tsipras, cut short his visit to neighboring Bosnia on Monday and quickly returned to Athens.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said officials "are doing everything humanly possible to try and tackle these fires", but "what concerns us is that there are fires occurring simultaneously".

He also pleaded with Greeks in affected areas to leave immediately.

The wildfires come as record temperatures in northern Europe have seen blazes cause widespread damage in recent days. "Properties and material wealth can be replaced".

Wildfires are not uncommon in Greece, but a relatively dry winter created tinder box conditions.

Gaveras says his family's little piece of paradise has been turned into a hellscape, in just a matter of minutes. SKAI TV news reported that residents and vacationers fled to nearby beaches in Rafina, where they were rescued by the coast guard.

The Associated Press reported that 10 people were killed when a boat capsized while it was evacuating vacationers from a hotel in Mati, east of Athens.

Rescue teams combed through the area and the sea on Wednesday trying to locate anything which could offer clarity on the missing, who are thought to number about 40.

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