Death toll hits 50 from Greek wildfires

Smoke rise over an avenue during a forest fire in Neo Voutsa a northeast suburb of Athens Greece on Monday

Smoke rise over an avenue during a forest fire in Neo Voutsa a northeast suburb of Athens Greece on Monday

The bodies were entwined and severely burnt, an AFP photographer at the scene said.

He had earlier said that 26 bodies were found on Tuesday, in the beach resort of Mati, east of Athens, which is located in Attica.

"Instinctively, seeing the end nearing, they embraced", Economopoulos said.

Video footage showed inhabitants fleeing the fires by auto, with several buildings and homes damaged, as the region of Attica - which includes Athens - declared a state of emergency.

Residents wandered the streets, some searching for their burned-out cars, others for their pets.

Her home is surrounded by dry pine trees. A flotilla of boats, including some from the coast guard, evacuated more than 700 people by sea from threatened beaches overnight, authorities said.

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

One of the youngest victims was thought to be a six-month-old baby who died of smoke inhalation, officials said.

On Monday, the Nordic nation's civil protection agency MSB said there were 27 active fires across the country, as temperatures were expected to soar as high as 35 Celsius this week.

"I personally saw at least 100 homes in flames", said Evangelos Bournous, mayor of the Rafina-Pikermi area.

Ireland's Ambassador to Greece Orla O'Hanrahan confirmed Mr O'Callaghan-Westropp's death.

People watch a wildfire raging in the town of Rafina, near Athens, Greece, July 23, 2018.

A motorcyclist looks at smoldering shrubbery on a road near Kineta west of Athens on Monday
A motorcyclist looks at smoldering shrubbery on a road near Kineta west of Athens on Monday

At least five people died trying to escape the flames into the sea.

The fires have seen some trying to evacuate by fishing boats, navy vessels, and yachts, which has seen at least four people killed. They lost sight of the shore and became disoriented.

Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras declared three days of national mourning for those killed as officials feared the death toll could rise even further.

In all, 47 brush and forest fires broke out across Greece on Monday and early today, with a lot of them quickly extinguished, the fire department said. Nikos Stavrinidis and his wife grabbed whatever they could from their summer home in the Mati area near Ravina and ran for their lives, he said.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted the EU "will spare no effort to help Greece and the Greek people" while Pope Francis spoke of his "deep sadness", sentiments echoed by EU and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation leaders.

More than 300 firefighters, five aircraft and two helicopters have been mobilised to tackle the "extremely difficult" situation due to those strong winds, Athens fire chief Achille Tzouvaras said in a press statement.

Interior Minister Panos Skourletis said on Tuesday the priority was to extinguish a fire that was still burning in Kineta, 50km from Athens.

"I am really concerned by the parallel outbreak of these fires", Tsipras said, with officials raising the possibility they could have been started deliberately by criminals out to ransack abandoned homes.

"I'm concerned at the simultaneous outbreaks both east and west of Attica", added Tsipras, who later cut short his trip overseas and was scheduled to return to Greece.

Supreme court prosecutors announced they had opened an investigation into the causes of the fire.

By yesterday afternoon, the Mati fire was contained, but the risk remained of it reigniting in scrubland parched by Greece's searing summer heat.

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