World, Europe

Greece: Death toll from wildfires hits 76

Attica region in state of emergency as residents forced to evacuate homes

23.07.2018
Greece: Death toll from wildfires hits 76

By Magda Panoutsopoulou and Furkan Naci Top

ATHENS

The death toll from Monday's wildfires on the east and west coasts of Greece’s Attica region has risen to 76, officials said Tuesday.

The casualties topped 76 when two elderly people were found burnt at their house in Mati, east of Athens, which is located in Attica, according to the fire brigade.

Fire Brigade spokesman Stavroula Mallire said the two fires injured 164 people, including at least 23 children, while more than 100 people were still missing.

Speaking to local TV channel SKAI, Rafina-Pikermi Mayor Evangelos Bournos said it is feared the death toll may reach 100.

Also, over 1,000 houses were destroyed, while hundreds of cars were unusable in Mati.

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.

The coastal region on the western side of Attica, Kineta -- around 54 kilometers (34 miles) west of Athens -- was evacuated when fires broke out Monday afternoon in a forest in Geraneia Mountains that surround the area.

The fire in Kineta region is yet to be brought under control.

Some casualties occurred when people were stuck in their homes or vehicles, or when they drowned in the sea while trying to escape the flames.

More than 700 people who escaped the fire and reached the shores were transported to safe areas by coast guard teams and private boats.

Meanwhile, the Greek High Court ordered an investigation into the wildfire.

Poland Foreign Ministry also announced the fires claimed the lives of two Polish tourists.

- Turkey offers help

A firefighting operation is underway with more than 600 firefighters and 300 engines striving to contain the flames, as the area is surrounded by pines, while Greece has asked the European Union for assistance.

The other big fire on the northeast side of Attica has forced local authorities to evacuate summer camps while hundreds more people have left their homes.

The thick smoke enveloping the sky above Attica is visible from many areas in the region.

The nation is mourning the lives lost, with flags at parliament flying at half-mast.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of national mourning.

Tsipras cut short his visit to Bosnia-Herzegovina and returned to Athens.

A state of emergency has been declared in some areas by Governor Rena Dourou.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu telephoned his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias and expressed condolences for those who lost their lives.

Cavusoglu also told Kotzias that Turkey is ready to help with rescue and aid efforts.

Separately, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed "deep sorrow" over the deaths in Greece and offered help to Tsipras over the phone.

Later on Tuesday, the Greek Foreign Ministry thanked Turkey and Macedonia for their offers of help.

The ministry expressed sincere gratitude to the foreign ministers of Turkey and Macedonia ''for their immediate response in offering aircraft to help extinguish the deadly wildfires in Attica".


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