Greece in mourning after fire tragedy
The forest fires raging outside of Athens have cost at least 74 people their lives. Greek authorities do not dare to estimate how many are missing.
Large firefights are still fought on Tuesday against the flames in the rugged terrain, but most and the largest of the fires were under control in the afternoon.
A spokesperson for the Greek fire department reports that 74 people have been found dead so far, while 164 adults and 23 children have suffered severe burns and smoke injuries.
Several of the victims were found in the ocean, and the authorities fear that more may have drowned or are in the scorched area.
The largest fire broke out just outside Kineta west of Athens on Monday, while another forest fire raged near Rafina east of the Greek capital.
In Mati 26 charred bodies were found in the garden of a villa, where the cliffs made it impossible to descend to the water. Several of them were in the same family and lay clinging to each other. The fire and rescue workers who found them are now receiving crisis assistance.
“We provide psychological help not only to people who are evacuated but also to our employees who have experienced very traumatic experiences,” says Georgia Trismpioti in the Greek Red Cross.
Fled to the sea
Residents and holidaymakers were totally overwhelmed by the flaming sea on Monday night and fled in panic from the gloomy wind and sparkling towards the sea.
“Everything happened in seconds,” says Andreaas Passios, who lives near Mati.
“I grabbed a beach towel. It saved my life. I took water on the towel, grabbed my wife and ran to the sea”, he says.
Many people threw themselves into the ocean and spent the night in the water, others were evacuated by small boats and others were swimming to safety.
Nikos Stravrinidis, his wife and two friends, together with several others, swam from Rafina with sore eyes and carbon monoxide in their lungs. For two hours they were exhausted in the ocean until they were rescued by a fishing boat with an Egyptian crew.
For a woman and her son, the rescue came too late.
“It’s indescribably bad to see the person next to you drowning without you being able to do anything to prevent it,” says Stravrinidis.
The roar of the flames
According to the mayor of Rafina, Vangelis Bournous, at least 1,200 houses in the city were lost to the flames, but the authorities have not yet got a full overview.
Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has declared three days of national mourning and interrupted a state visit to Bosnia on Tuesday.
“Today, Greece is mourning, and in memory of those who we lost, we declare a three-day mourning period,” Tsipra said on Tuesday.
“But we must not let our sorrow overwhelm us. This is a time for struggle, fellowship, courage and, above all, solidarity, Tsipras said.
France, Germany and several other countries have come to the aid of Greece and have sent firefighters and crews to assist in the extinguishing.
Tour operators Ving Norway, Apollo, TUI and solfaktor.no inform NTB that none of their customers is affected by the fires.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs nevertheless encourages Norwegians in the area to register on travel registration, so that Norwegian authorities can obtain an overview of the situation.
© NTB scanpix / #Norway Today