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Flames ravage Greek seaside as wildfires kill 74

Rtv online desk
|  ২৪ জুলাই ২০১৮, ০০:০০ | Update : ২৪ জুলাই ২০১৮, ২৩:৩১
Raging wildfires killed 74 people including small children in Greece, devouring homes and forests as terrified residents fled to the sea to escape the flames, authorities said Tuesday.

Orange flames engulfed pine forests, turning them to ash and leaving lines of charred cars in the smoke-filled streets of seaside towns near Athens after the fires broke on Monday.

Rescuers rushed to evacuate residents and tourists stranded on beaches.

Others were overtaken by the flames in their homes, on foot or in their cars.

The charred bodies of 26 people, including small children, were discovered in the courtyard of a villa at the seaside resort of Mati, 40 kilometres (25 miles) northeast of the capital, said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.

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", he said.

"The problem is what is still hidden under the ashes," said Vice President of Emergency Services Miltiadis Mylonas.

The government said Wednesday that 308 engineers had arrived on site to assess the damage.

Video footage showed people fleeing by car as the tourist-friendly Attica region declared a state of emergency.

"I saw the fire move down the hill at around 6:00 pm and five or ten minutes later it was in my garden," said 60-year old Athanasia Oktapodi.

Her home is surround by dry pine trees.

"They caught fire. I ran out like a crazy person, got to the beach and put my head in the water. Then the patrol boats came."

- Death toll soars -

Fire service spokeswoman Stavroula Maliri raised the overall death toll on Tuesday to 74 from an earlier count of 60.

She said the toll was not yet final since firefighters were still searching for victims.

Winds of more than 100 kilometers per hour (60 mph) in Mati caused a "sudden progression of fire" through the village, said Maliri.

"Mati no longer exists," said the mayor of nearby Rafina, Evangelos Bournous. He added that more than a thousand buildings and 300 cars had been damaged.

According to Maliri, 82 people remained in hospital on Tuesday night including 10 adults needing respiratory assistance and almost a dozen children.

Officials said they were Greece's deadliest blazes in more than a decade.

Greece's Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras cut short a visit to Bosnia to return home. He announced three days of national mourning.

Anticipating questions about the high death toll and the emergency planning, Tsipras stressed the "extreme" scale of the fires.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted Tuesday that the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people".

Source: AFP

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