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Breaking: Greece's Attica wildfires rage burning people, buildings and cars

posted onJuly 24, 2018
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The Greek flag flies at half-mast on top of Parliament on Syntagma Square in Athens as a fire that started on Monday in eastern Attica claimed more than 50 lives by Tuesday morning and injured more than 150 residents and visitors in the holiday resorts of Mati, Rafina, Neos Voutzas and Penteli. 

Most of  the dead have so far been found in the area between Rafina and Nea Makri, especially in Mati and Kokkino Limanaki, where they were trapped by the flames in homes and cars or drowned in their attempt to escape from the sea. 

There are fears of even more casualties, as many telephone calls have been made to the Fire Brigade to report missing persons. 

Local officials say at least 1,000 houses and 300 vehicles were destroyed.

Shocking images show the scale of the destruction as burnt out cars fill the roads around Mati, a village 40km north-east of Athens, popular with local tourists, especially pensioners and children attending holiday camps. 

Wildfires Attica AMNA
Photo: AMNA News Agency

A survivor of the wildfire in Mati has compared the inferno to the eruption of Pompei. 

Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece's Red Cross, told Skai TV: "I was briefed by a rescuer that he saw the shocking picture of 26 people tightly huddled in a field some 30 metres from the beach."

Hundreds of firefighters have been battling the blazes. Greece has appealed for international assistance as it tries to bring the fires under control and protect towns from total devastation. 

Cyprus, Israel, Spain, Bulgaria, Italy, Germany, Poland and France have extended a helping hand to the country. Italy, Germany, Poland and France have all sent help in the form of planes, vehicles and firefighters. 

mati attica greece
People ran to the sea to escape the blaze

The wildfires are the worst to hit Greece since 2007, when 84 people were killed in the southern Peloponnese peninsula. 

The force of the fires subsided on Tuesday, but there are concerns they could spread again depending on the weather.

Officials quoted by AFP news agency have suggested the current blazes may have been started by arsonists. The question is what kind of arsonists and why?


How world leaders reacted

"Today is a day of remembrance. It is the 44th anniversary of the restoration of democracy, but it is all overshadowed by the tragedy of the dead  from the fire," President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopios Pavlopoulos said.

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his support and solidarity to Greece in a tweet over
the deadly fires. 

“Our thoughts in Greece and the victims of the horrific fires. In Sweden, as in Greece, France and Europe stand in solidarity and offer their help” he wrote.

Italian Prime Minister Guiseppe Conte tweeted: “Deeply shocked by the deaths of so many people”

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed condolences to the Greek authorities over the wildfires. "The Russian president also expressed readiness to provide the necessary assistance in dealing with the aftermath of the natural disaster," the Kremlin press service added.

The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker pointed out the Commission would stand by Greece and noted it would allocate the necessary resources to address the emergency situation caused by the fires,  the Greek Prime Minister’s press office said.

The Greek PM Alexis Tsipras called three days of national mourning stating in a televised address, "The country is going through an unspeakable tragedy".

pray for greece

UPDATE 24/07/2018 20:00 

Social media from all over the world users keep sending messages of solidarity (#prayforgreece hashtag on Twitter).

ATTICA WILDFIRES

At least 74 people have been killed in the wildfires, a Greek Fire Brigade official said. At least 187 people, including 23 children, have been injured. The number of missing persons was still unclear. The Greek Fire Brigade urged people with missing relatives or friends to call the 199 hotline to provide rescuers with their names and descriptions.

UPDATE 25/07/2018

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With reporting by AMNA and news agencies