Greece wildfires: Death toll rises to 79 in one of deadliest blazes in decades
The death toll in Greece after some of the worst wildfires this century has risen to 79, as rescue workers continue to search charred homes and burnt-out cars.
Many villagers and holidaymakers fled to the sea to try to escape flames that tore through coastal resorts near Athens. They were stoked by high winds, reducing pine forests to ash and devouring hundreds of buildings.
Residents and terrified holidaymakers were overtaken by the flames in homes, on foot or in their cars. Survivors told of a “biblical disaster” that Greek media described as a “national tragedy”, while Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia and announced three days of national mourning.
The government has not yet said how many people are still missing from the fires, which broke out on Monday, as firefighters continue to battle blazes in some areas. It is feared the death toll could rise to at least 100.
The death toll already surpasses that from the blazes that hit Greece’s southern island of Evia in 2007, in which 77 people perished.
The charred bodies of 26 people, including small children, were discovered at a villa at the seaside resort of Mati, 25 miles northeast of Athens.
They were huddled together in small groups, “perhaps families, friends or strangers, entwined in a last attempt to protect themselves as they tried to reach the sea”, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.
Athens said 308 engineers would arrive on site by Wednesday to assess the damage.
But “the problem is what is still hidden under the ashes”, said emergency services vice president Miltiadis Mylonas.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed on Wednesday the deadly wildfires in Greece.
“Israel mourns with the people of Greece over the loss of life. I express my deepest condolences to the families who lost their loved ones,” the prime minister wrote on his Twitter account.