Wildfires In Greece Kill At Least 60 As People Flee To Beach In Attempt To Escape Flames

Thanassis StavrakisAP Photo

It was a frightening scene in Greece overnight as wildfires broke out in two locations near Athens and near Kineta, killing at least 60 and injuring 150, reports Sky News. Over 600 firefighters are there, with other countries wanting to send help. Croatia has offered to send firefighting planes, and Israel has also offered to send aid as has the head of the EU, with more countries sure to follow suit. In one horror scene near the seaside town of Mati, rescue workers found 26 bodies huddled together. Greece has declared a state of emergency and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has said the country is in a three-day mourning period for those killed during this tragedy.

“Fanned by gale-force winds that frequently changed direction, the flames spread rapidly into populated seaside towns — too fast for many who were in their cars or homes to flee, fire department spokeswoman Stavroula Malliri said,” as reported by Fox News.

One of the fires broke out 20 miles northeast of Athens near Rafina, while the other occurred 30 miles west of the capital in Kineta. It has been a hot, dry summer in Greece and there were gale-force winds, therefore providing a perfect recipe for the forest fires to happen and spread quickly.

More than 700 people, both tourists and residents, were evacuated by boat overnight, as people instinctively headed to the coast to try to find help in escaping the flames, according to Merchant Marine deputy minister Nektarios Santorinios.

“Everything happened in seconds,” Andreaas Passios, who lives northeast of Athens, told the AP. “I grabbed a beach towel. It saved my life. I soaked it, grabbed my wife and we ran to the sea.”

Another survivor, Nikos Stavrinidis, also told the AP about the fast-moving flames and how he and others had fled to the sea and were swept out. After two hours in the water, he was scooped up by an Egyptian crew on a fishing boat. Two that he had escaped with didn’t survive.

“What upsets me and what I will carry in my heart is that it is terrible to see the person next to you drowning and not being able to help him. You can’t. That’s the only tragic thing – that will stay with me.”

More and more countries are sending their condolences and offers of help as rescue and recovery efforts continue in the light of day. This has been the deadliest fire season for Greece in more than a decade.