Published: Wed, July 25, 2018
Global News | By Blake Casey

Greek wildfire kills at least 20 near Athens, residents flee homes

Greek wildfire kills at least 20 near Athens, residents flee homes

High winds spread the fire, trapping many in homes and vehicles and forcing others into the sea as they tried to escape the flames.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared a state of emergency in the Attica region, which includes Athens. Burned-out cars were scattered outside gated compounds where three- and four-storey buildings bore signs of fire damage.

Anastasiya Pontikas, 32, told CNN that she returned from the supermarket on Monday to find her home surrounded by flames.

The fires have sent people scrambling to escape and have put intense pressure on fire and rescue agencies. "Then the patrol boats came", said the 60-year-old.

The severely burnt bodies were entwined in groups in "a final attempt to protect themselves", said rescuer Vassilis Andriopoulos.

Mayor of the Rafina-Pikermi area, Evangelos Bournous claimed he saw at least 100 homes and 200 cars in flames.

At least 187 people, including 23 children, have been injured. That's the head of Greece's Red Cross commenting on a devastating scene: A group of 26 people who died just 100 feet from the sea and were apparently found hugging one another.

Flames fanned by strong winds have devastated the village of Mati near Athens and there are fears that the number of dead will rise as it is not known yet how many people remain missing.

"People are shocked, lost".

Kiriazova said they doused their house in the Mati area near Rafina with water from a garden hose, and credited the fact that their window frames were metal instead of wood for their home being spared.

"It's a hard night for Greece", Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said late Monday after cutting short a trip to Bosnia and returning to Athens.

"Today, Greece is mourning and we are declaring three days of national mourning in the memory of those who perished".

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Fire Service spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said Greece had called on the European Union for assistance with aerial and ground support in helping battle the flames.

Neighboring countries have been quick to offer relief.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission chief, tweeted that the EU "will spare no effort to help".

Tsipras said that "all emergency forces have been mobilised" to battle fires along at least three fronts.

Greece sought global help through the European Union as fires on either side of Athens left lines of cars torched, charred farms and forests, and sent hundreds of people racing to beaches to be evacuated by navy vessels, yachts and fishing boats.

Near the town of Marathon, residents fled to safety along the beach, while 600 children were evacuated from holiday camps in the area. The fire was in the distance, then sparks from the fire reached us.

"Although the fires had largely abated by Tuesday afternoon, they were far from out".

"Our thoughts go to Greece and the victims of the awful fires", French President Emmanuel Macron said in tweets published in French and Greek. Besides, forests are on fire in other regions of Greece, including the Corinthia area in the region of Peloponnese and the city of Chania on the island of Crete.

Temperatures have climbed to 40°C but showers and falling temperatures were expected later in Athens. "When we came back home to see what happened, all the trees in our street were still on fire".

Hundreds of others abandoned cars and fled to nearby beaches, from where they were evacuated hours later by coast guard and private boats.

Fires have raged for five days in Latvia, destroying more than 800 hectares in the Baltic state's western regions.

Major roadways and train links are also now shut down, due to the forest fire flames that have taken over transportation routes.

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